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  1. Bitch | Lab
    Bitch | Lab January 29, 2006 at 12:51 am |

    Excellent Piny.

    I don’t get this guy. Most trans usually tell their potential partner anyway. And the thing about being forced? It’s quite bizarre. It’s almost as if he’s responding just like a homophobic man does when he learns he’s been attracted to or nearly had sex with a tranny.

    Put this guys in a glory hole. We could give them a “coke” or “pepsi” test. (In real testing, btw, people preferred pepsi overwhelmingly, even though they _said_ they preferred coke. :)

    LOL (I’m JK JK JK people!)

    I’ve a friend who used to joke around and say women had cooties. (He’s gay) But, because he’s got a hella lotta kink in him, he ended up being with a tranny and got a load of bricks smacked upside his head about how he rigidly constructed this binary opposition in terms of both gender and sexuality. He’s still sorting it out but man, I”m glad he didn’t repond like above. He’s grown as a person and is sometimes in awe of the experience. It’s made him rethink everything he’s thought for about 45 years.

    Anyway, again, good post!

  2. mythago
    mythago January 29, 2006 at 1:02 am |

    He’s very easy to get. There’s nothing about being gay that insulates a man from being a misogynistic asshat.

  3. Robert
    Robert January 29, 2006 at 1:17 am |

    The guy seems rather a jerk.

    On the other hand, he also seems to be closer to right than to wrong. Isn’t part of sexual autonomy getting to decide who you are going to have sex with? Which would seem to include anatomical sex.

    I would ordinarily devolve the responsibility for discerning that information on the person to whom it’s important. But there would certainly seem to be contexts where there are implicit assumptions in the scene. People for whom those implicit assumptions are not in fact true perhaps owe their potential partners a friendly informational chat before sex, particularly if they are sending social and visual cues that they know are in conflict with the expectations of the other participants in the scene.

    On the other hand, people for whom anatomical sex is overridingly important perhaps also have a responsibility to query potential partners. “Uh, you look like a guy, but were you born with the old twig and berries? Or what?” Awkward and offputting, but nobody ever promised that the road to nihilistic hedonism would be conveniently paved.

  4. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost January 29, 2006 at 1:33 am |

    Ace fisking.

    Although I strongly affirm everyone’s right to establish whatever criteria they damn well please in deciding who they want to get down with, if the contents of someone’s package is a potential dealbreaker, fucking ask straight up before it gets to that point. If you forget, a respectful “I’m sorry, I’m not down with your gear” is enough. No need for a fucking hissy fit. Note that this guy’s reaction is pretty well directly parallel to that of a straight guy who finds the girl he brought home from the bar is packing heat.

    I forget where it was mentioned in the original article, but I think the comment that transphobia tends to be closely linked with good old-fashioned sexism is an important point.

  5. Robert
    Robert January 29, 2006 at 1:35 am |

    I’m just going to cut off any discussion of “nihilistic hedonism” at the knees. It can go on the same shelf as the politics of BDSM

    You’re kinky. But amputation fetishism isn’t really BDSM, is it? These are distant countries, viewed complacently through a telescope, to us simple folk here in the Vanilla Territories.

    Thanks for the compliment in (4). Everyone should sound like PG Wodehouse, or at least make the effort. Life would be so much more civilized. Or at least more verbally amusing.

    From (2) and (3) we arrive at what would seem to be the crux: I think the perceived-by-some-gay-men “invasion” of gay male space by transfolk is problematic, to those gay men, like our author. Whether the sex happens or not is not really the issue; it’s that these gay guys don’t want to hang with people they think are women.

    And of course, the people they think are women, don’t think of themselves in that way. Not sure who should “win” this conflict; whoever owns the building, I guess.

    Sigh. It was all so simple back in the old days, when you just went out to the barn with your cousins and did whatever came naturally.

  6. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost January 29, 2006 at 1:42 am |

    Follow up to myself and response to Robert:

    Although I’m fully in favour of disclosure and asking for relevant information (piny, are my euphemisms ok? They’re a little more street than Robert’s) there are times when a transperson may not feel comfortable talking about what’s between their legs, even as part of, so to speak, a pre-sex interview. Yay for complexity.

  7. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost January 29, 2006 at 1:47 am |

    Oh, and one of the criteria I set for myself is that I don’t go to bed with my cousins. That’s just me and my wacky repression. ;)

    I can mostly agree with you in that I think, in the case of a private club, the owner has the right to set whatever criteria for membership that they see fit. This is, however, a discussion of a contest open (more or less) to the public. It’s not so cut and dried in that situation. I’m in favour of inclusion, but that’s just a reflection of my values. It’s not clear where whose obligation lies in this sitation.

    It’s important to remember, too, that people excluded from a private club on whatever basis have every right to mobilize whatever social pressure they can to lean on the owner to change their mind. That’s what Fiske is doing here. Even if the exclusion is perfectly justified, so is Fiske’s attempt to get it changed.

  8. Robert
    Robert January 29, 2006 at 3:14 am |

    Oh, and one of the criteria I set for myself is that I don’t go to bed with my cousins.

    Don’t you judge me!

  9. Amanda
    Amanda January 29, 2006 at 7:19 am |

    I’m gonna do that thing Amanda does where she quotes, mocks, quotes, mocks, quotes, mocks, you get the idea.

    FYI, the practice is called “fisking” and it’s a lot of fun.

    That said, I don’t think the situation is sexual assault if the encounter ended as soon as the non-trans man found out, but there is a disturbing hint of it there. One should be free from being put upon by violence or even the social order to have sex w/ people you don’t want.

    Of course, not being trans, I can’t say what it’s like trying to disclose that information. I thank the lord I don’t believe is above us every day that I don’t have herpes or some other disease you’re morally obliged to disclose to a new partner, even if you’re using condems. Attempting to explain a trans identity must be really difficult.

    That said, after taking a long look at myself, if I was really into a guy and found out he was trans, I wouldn’t hesitate to continue dating him.

    Transmale bodies are not attractive or aesthetically pleasing as male bodies. Transmen have no place in a taxonomy of gay male desire.

    I don’t want to be pushy, but can I ask you to elaborate? Is it a a whole body thing or a genital-only issue? I ask because in my experience as a boring straight woman whose only queer friends also tend to adhere strongly to gender roles, I still find that people mix up male and female bodies all the time.

    Funny story–a friend of mine went to a Halloween party she attends every year where people really try to out do each other, costume-wise. She decided one year to be a drag queen and wore the thigh highs, mini-skirt, corseted top, and a long purple wig. And gay men hit on her all night–one guy walked up to her and said, “I hope your cock is as prettey as you are.” She thought it was hysterical, that she pulled the costume off well, but she was also perplexed. She has the most feminine body imaginable–soft, curvy, big breasts. That anyone could mistake her for a man says a lot to me about how our gender identifications are rooted in cultural assumptions, not biology.

  10. AndiF
    AndiF January 29, 2006 at 9:04 am |

    I don’t like to hold the homosexual community to a higher standard than my het one but it’s somehow more disappointing to see someone who should well understand being a victim of the ick factor doing the same to other people.

  11. Bitch | Lab
    Bitch | Lab January 29, 2006 at 11:38 am |

    re: trans. just the typpho quean leaving of guy when i typed ‘trans’. you’re right though, i was talking about something other than relatively anonymous sex.

  12. Kim
    Kim January 29, 2006 at 12:24 pm |

    i’m confused on the whole transgendered issue. if you’re born a man, but have GRS, are you now considered a lesbian if you’re attracted to women?

    this guy is definitely a jerk, but i kinda see the root of his point. as a straight woman, i wouldn’t be interested in having sex with a man who used to be a woman. and i’d be pretty put out if i was hooking up with a guy and he didn’t tell me right off: i think a sexual partner has a right to know. i’m not sure if that’s transphobia..?

    maybe i’ve missed a previous post on it– i’ll hit the archives in a bit– but i’d like it if you (piny) would delve into the issue in more depth. i’ve been trying to wrap my head around the trans community for a while now, and must admit that the only conclusions i’ve been able to draw have left them at odds with the feminist movement. but anyway, i’m getting off-topic…

  13. Thomas
    Thomas January 29, 2006 at 1:34 pm |

    I think there’s a world of difference between whether transfolk are welcome in contests and clubs and whether they have an obligation to disclose that they are transfolks to sex partners. There are sexual spaces among gay men where presence and partnering are so closely related that they are in a grey area (see Blow Buddies, above), but for the most part, access to a club or space does not raise the same issues as having sex with someone.

    The letter writer’s main complaints seem to be, 1) he really doesn’t want to have sex with transmen, and wants advanced warning, and I’m with him on that; and 2) that he doesn’t want transmen around because they have cooties, and on that he can just fuck off.

    If gay men born men don’t like transmen’s bodies and it holds back a transman as a competitor in contests, then the prejudice (using the word in the legal sense to mean harm) is to the transman, not the other competitors. I don’t see a good argument for denying access.

    I may catch crap for this, but Piny, isn’t this just a bunch of old-guard gay leathermen clinging to the hypermasculine aspects of the leather scene as a defense against an internalized image of male homosexuality as feminine, queeny or swishy?

  14. srl
    srl January 29, 2006 at 2:14 pm |

    Kim—

    Yes, an MTF who’s attracted to women is generally a lesbian. Unless she identifies as bi/pansexual or queer. :) This is regardless of whether or not she’s had surgery, and it’s respectful to use female pronouns for her if you want to be on good terms. Aggressively calling her “he” will probably put you on her shitlist. Ditto, with appropriate changes, for female-bodied folk who don’t identify as women or who identify as guys.

    Where (some) transfolk find common ground with (some) feminisms is in the assertions that A> biology isn’t/shouldn’t be destiny, B> people should be free to determine what they do with their own bodies and sexuality, and C> social and economic power shouldn’t be denied to anyone on the basis of their gendered choices.

    It’s common enough for transfolk to feel that what’s in our pants is our own damn business. If you’re hot for a guy, and he’s interested in you, the last thing he needs to worry about is you freaking out when he tells you he’s trans. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. :)

  15. Julie
    Julie January 29, 2006 at 2:23 pm |

    I will fully and 100% admit that I don’t have a ton of knowledge in this area.That being said… I’m not sure I understand what we are talking about. Are these transguys who have gone through gender reassignment surgery or who are living as men but still have female genitalia? If I picked someone up and they told me they used to be a woman but now they were male and had all the male “parts” I would probably be a little wierded out, but frankly if I was attracted to them as a male before that, I would like to think it wouldn’t make a difference to me. If this same person were to be living as a male, but still have female genitals, I wouldn’t be mad, and I certainly wouldn’t think they had “cooties” but it would make a huge difference to me in terms of sexual attraction, just because I am not sexually attracted to women. I wouldn’t be an ass about it and I certainly wouldn’t cry sexual assault, but I wouldn’t continue the encounter. I would, however, wish they had told me before we wasted time and effort on something that wasn’t going to happen. Does that make sense or am I just talking out of my ass?
    That being said, this guy is an ass. If you are having an orgy or a sex party or a club, where pretty much anyone can come in and get laid/blown/etc… if they so desire, I really don’t understand why some guys are ok and others are not. That really does just seem like he’s set on being a complete asshat. Seriously, it’s not like that little bit of non shared information is going to come back and haunt him later or cause major psychological damage. Chances are he’s not even going to know, so why bother getting all up in arms about it?

  16. srl
    srl January 29, 2006 at 2:31 pm |

    Piny—

    Looks like several people here are sticking on assumptions about bottom surgery, sex, and gender identity. That might be a reasonable topic for another post– particularly as the concept of gender self-determination relates to feminism. (I’ve got several well-stacked rants about this, but I’ll refrain at the moment.)

  17. bex*
    bex* January 29, 2006 at 2:38 pm |

    An excellent deconstruction of this article. I’m glad that you made the distinction between sexual space versus an individual sexual encounter. It does alter the dynamics, but I’m sure many people would disagree with us.

    Topping off the article with the note about the MtF title holder, and letting people know it’d be different if she was out before the contest is a clear illustration for people who were wondering if it works both ways. (There’s always enough discrimination to go around.) What’s irritating is that just because she wasn’t out at the time she won the contest doesn’t mean she wasn’t trans.

    Somewhat similarly, the availability of/access to/choice to have surgery is independent of sexuality. Transsexuals existed before there was SRS. And many, many transsexuals exist without SRS today.

    And Piny, I’m so glad you’re posting on these issues. I would love to hear your ideas about transsexualism [in its mere existence] being antithetical to feminist theory. I am always seeking out new views on the matter, and I think it’s a very important topic.

  18. bex*
    bex* January 29, 2006 at 3:08 pm |

    And to Kim’s question of the MtF who is attracted to women – this is a perfect example of how ‘traditional’ binaries, roles, and labels fail when it comes to these topics.

    Generally yes, a male to female transsexual would be classified a lesbian if she were attracted to women. (That’s really a very simplistic answer though, and based on labeling the individual, rather than accepting the individual’s self-identification. But in this case, we have no individual to tell us what she thinks. And even then, that’s just one person.)

    Using sex reassignment surgery as a marker for her lesbianism is extremely problematic though- what about the long transitional period in which one must undergo a long process of evaluations, hormone therapy, and real life experience in order to be approved by physicians for SRS? She would probably tell you she was a lesbian then too. Additionally, many people are non-op, and aren’t going to undergo genital surgery for an assortment of reasons. But if they are living full time as women, and are attracted to women, then they may well identify as lesbian and would probably tell you then that they had been such all their life. Does that help?

    One thing that academic feminist theorists AND queer theorists are fond of is the idea that gender is socially constructed, and stands independent from sex – and we have different terms for them. Boy, girl, man, woman, those are gender terms, socially defined. Male, female, intersex, those are sex terms with biological basis. Simone de Beauvoir said, “A woman is made, not born.” Therefore, the transwoman is not born a man – she is born male. Whether she feels she was ever a boy or a man before becoming a girl or a woman is something she’d have to tell us. Some do, some don’t. (Again, sort of simplistic, but I’m trying to offer some clarity. When you get into theory though, everything can be debated!)

  19. Official Shrub.com Blog  » Blog Archive   » The Sexism of Transphobia

    […] om one of your fans, congrats on the new position, piny! Today I found an article where he fisks a transphobic letter to the editor from a San Fran maga […]

  20. Amanda
    Amanda January 29, 2006 at 5:20 pm |

    Ah, okay that makes sense. Thanks, piny.

  21. Bitch | Lab
    Bitch | Lab January 29, 2006 at 5:56 pm |

    # mythago Says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 1:02 am

    He’s very easy to get. There’s nothing about being gay that insulates a man from being a misogynistic asshat.

    —-

    I’m not sure if calling it misogyny gets at what it is. We live in a society that only acknowledges sexual and gender dimorphism. You are born male or born female. end of story. we don’t have any language thourhg which to even begin to think of ourselves as existing in something other than this dichotomous space. That’s why I tend to use heteo/sexism — because it’s historically be inseparable.

  22. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost January 29, 2006 at 9:18 pm |

    If this same person were to be living as a male, but still have female genitals, I wouldn’t be mad, and I certainly wouldn’t think they had “cooties” but it would make a huge difference to me in terms of sexual attraction, just because I am not sexually attracted to women.

    Perfectly reasonable, and completely your right. But I would recommend rephrasing that to read “I am not sexually attracted to female sex organs”. What constitutes “woman” and “man” is a point of contention, but I’m sure your transman would-be sex partner would very much appreciate if you accept his self-idenification as a man.

  23. Thomas
    Thomas January 29, 2006 at 9:23 pm |

    I ask because in my experience as a boring straight woman whose only queer friends also tend to adhere strongly to gender roles, I still find that people mix up male and female bodies all the time.

    Amanda, that raised an interesting bunch of issues about how, beyond genetics, our bodies are mutable and the lines between physical maleness and femaleness are social constructs (and more importantly, broad and imprecise generalizations). I’m sure there’s a literature on this that folks with a better grounding in trans issues know and that I’m ignorant of, and I’d be happy to get an education from anybody who knows this area. From my own thinking and life experience, though, I think it’s awfully tough to describe the characteristics of a male or female body in a diagnostic way.

    For example, male bodies are bigger. Except I have a huge crush of a few sprint swimmers (Amy Van Dyken and Jenny Thompson, for those that care), and they are both as tall or taller than me. Male bodies have more hair, except that I’ve known hairless men and hairy women who choose not to remove it. Male bodies are hard and muscular, except that there are guys who are slight and not muscular, and guys who are soft with bodyfat. There are women who are stripped-down and muscular, with angles instead of curves — wrestler Patricia Miranda, for example. Even things like secondary sex characteristics tend to be generalizations. I have a friend who is a female triathlete, and has nothing to speak of for breasts, and I’ve seen guys with gynecomastia before.

    Even those things that we tend to think of as really binary, like genitals, are not. Leaving aside the intersexed or folks with ambiguous genitalia, we’re in a world where genitals can be modified. Both bottom surgery for FTMs and for MTFs have come a long way, and I’ve read a description of a really good phalloplasty described as “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”

    So, I’m straight, a term I use loosely because it’s really only shorthand. But the set of bodies I might be attracted to (or simply accept) in a sex partner is not perfectly congruent with any set of descriptions for “female” that I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think somebody could draft a set of criteria for physical characteristics of bodies I’m attracted to that would all be “female.”

    In college, a friend who was a feminist sex-radical byke shaved her head and let her leg hair grow out. She commented all the time on how threatened people were by it. She said it really was homophobia: since all this binary gender stuff is more social construct than biological divide, people who had a lot of energy invested in their self-identified sexual orientation were very threatened by the possibility that someone stepping out of or messing with the sex categories could cause them to be attracted (even temporarily) to someone of the “wrong” sex or sex category. It seems to me that this might explain the letter writer’s ugly, angry reaction: his invested belief that he’s only attracted to “men” and his belief that transmen are not “men” put him in a position where he has a lot to lose just by being exposed to transmen (pardon the pun) in a sexual space. If he’s attracted to a transman, he’s got to rethink all this stuff that he thought he had settled, and he’s a wimp for whom self-knowledge is upsetting.

  24. kate
    kate January 29, 2006 at 11:13 pm |

    My take on the letter to the editor was that this guy, without apology (because he could care less what women think), suffers from severe hatred of women. But then, his sneering feelings of male superiority and absolute right to exclude seem so familiar to me, a straight woman, that I cannot help but to think he only mirrors the greater mysoginy common and acceptable in our society.

    Basically the mantra goes in his world:
    No matter what she may wish to do, she can’t get in our space and she’ll never be one of us. She’ll always be inferior/woman to us.

    And yet at the same time, men barge their way into female roles by going drag, being tranny without apology and feel no need to ask for inclusion. Not that anyone should, which is my point. Why should transman be forced disclose their former identity? To me its just another shade of discrimination against women; once a woman, always a women; go away — you are not us.

    If I were highly attracted to a transman and didn’t know it until the hand reached the bottom and I found something other than what I expected, sure I’d be a bit put off, but I don’t think I’d torture the person. These people struggle with their own demons, seems the height of selfishness to claim some trauma higher than what the other must suffer everyday of their lives.

    As for the issue about the contests, again like another poster here stated, who cares? Let them join in. They don’t win the contest maybe, but so what? What’s the fuss. Its all about their fear of becoming feminized. Message of writer:A man can become a woman, but god help a woman who thinks she can be a man in any way.

  25. kate
    kate January 29, 2006 at 11:58 pm |

    May I also add that I have found often that gay men enjoy male priviledge and white gay men even more so and are quick to protect it.

    Feminism in my definition is a struggle for the freedom from oppression of any form. Women though, but virtue of living in a male dominant society, must work with, deal male oppression on all levels.

    Gay men on the other hand, complain when they are excluded from a group they feel they born rights to be included in.

    Oftentimes, I have felt a moral quandary when dealing with men who wish me to support their struggle for equal acceptance while they most often could give a rat’s fart about my struggles as a woman — because frankly, they don’t have to.

    Hence the fact that there are many conservative men that are gay as well.

  26. bex*
    bex* January 30, 2006 at 1:47 am |

    “And yet at the same time, men barge their way into female roles by going drag, being tranny without apology and feel no need to ask for inclusion.”

    I’m just going to say that that’s a bit sweeping, and not entirely true.

  27. Thomas
    Thomas January 30, 2006 at 9:57 am |

    I very much doubt that gay men are more transphobic than people in general. No one fights like family.

    Piny, I think that maybe softpedals it. I very much doubt that transphobia is as prevalent among gay men as in the straight community, but that’s not to say that among those gay men who are transphobic, it isn’t as virulent or moreso.

  28. bex*
    bex* January 30, 2006 at 11:10 am |

    “He [an mtf contestant] was male identified when he entered the contest,” Zuhl explained. “Then he came out as a transgender woman, with six weeks of his title left. He was very nervous, but I said, ‘This man deserves to be who he needs to be, and we need to empower him.’ Nobody was going to take his title away, because they’d also be stripping down his dignity. As a human being with compassion there was no way I could strip that from him.”

    Actually, I find this situation somewhat anomalous. Many transwomen are stripped of their jobs, families, social connections, associations, just as transmen are. But aside from that, I find the idea that the rest of the article is bullshit but this part is true suspicious.

    Their use of male pronouns alone gives insight as to how they view her still. We don’t know whether she just came out, and still lives full time as male- I would suspect so, considering the transition process -that makes it a hell of a lot easier for them to just brush off. As long as she doesn’t get the important bits subtracted in the next six weeks, she’s still a man, great. Or if she just came out as transgender, not necessarily transsexual (they use transgender, but the quote sort of implies transsexual) there are a lot of ways retaining the title could be easy enough, like still appearing as a man for title-related duties – but then, that’s not exactly barging their way into a female role.

    The real test of “being tranny without apology and feel[ing] no need to ask for inclusion” would be in a more feminine social arena. There’s a hell of a lot of apologizing and asking for inclusion going on there.

  29. Doctor Slack
    Doctor Slack January 30, 2006 at 11:13 am |

    Kate says:

    You’re right to say the letter-writer is being hypocritical and bigoted, of course, and that there may be some kind of extension of misogyny going on. (I don’t know enough about the phenomenon of trans panic to say to what extent this is true, but I’m aware that gay sexuality can be as vulnerable to various forms of destructive repression as straight sexuality is, so it’s at least a plausible reading to me.)

    You lose me when you go on to talk about “male privilege” and gay men in the larger sense, though. At one point, you say it “seems the height of selfishness to claim some trauma higher than what the other must suffer everyday of their lives,” but then you go on to say this:

    Women . . . [by] virtue of living in a male dominant society, must work with . . . male oppression on all levels. Gay men on the other hand, complain when they are excluded from a group they feel they born rights to be included in.

    What does this mean, exactly? Do you believe women don’t, or can’t, complain when they’re excluded unjustifiably from a group? Do you believe that a possible connect between trans panic and misogyny necessarily means the people affected are functioning as the exact equivalent of straight women? Does the existence of gay misogynists indicate to you that gay men, white or otherwise, actually occupy a niche of “male privilege” functionally equivalent to straight men — and that this niche can automatically be considered more “privileged” than your own as a straight woman? It’s very weird to see you post something like this after having objected (correctly) to the self-serving game of victimry one-upmanship being played in the letter to the editor.

    Oftentimes, I have felt a moral quandary when dealing with men who wish me to support their struggle for equal acceptance while they most often could give a rat’s fart about my struggles as a woman

    OTOH, it could be that they have similar quandaries about a real (or perceived) blindness on your part to your own privilege, and that they sense you don’t really “give a rat’s fart” about their struggles. Something to think about.

  30. jami
    jami January 30, 2006 at 12:02 pm |

    can we reverse this? the stereotypical frat boy with a crush on his lesbian barista manages to become a believable woman (suspension of disbelief, yes).

    he gets her in bed without mentioning he’s got penis. perhaps he only ever wanted to sleep with lesbians, in fact, and thinks this is the way to do it. is the hot barista angry?

    i totally agree that the guy you’re mocking is over-reacting (help! help! i’m being oppressed!), especially if he was in a group setting as you imply. but many of us would be angry if someone we brought home had surprising body parts we hadn’t been told about in advance.

    i don’t think it’s necessary that we all walk around open to any type of sex. if you’re a gay man in a gay bar, it’s pretty clear that you’d want to be told about a vagina pre-nakedness.

  31. Thomas
    Thomas January 30, 2006 at 12:17 pm |

    Jami, lots of folks have said this guy has a right to know if his sex partners are trans, but I think that misses the point. I think everyone more or less agrees with that. The point was that the article he responded to was about whether transmen could compete for leather-contest titles, not whether gay leathermen born male should have sex with them. While most of us, I think, agree that the guy has a right to know if his prospective partner is trans, I don’t think that extends to a right to bar transmen from showing up at play parties, sex clubs and contests. If he doesn’t like ‘em, he doesn’t have to fuck ‘em.

    Since we’re talking about inclusion in space and not who’s having sex with who, the barista example is not really apt. A guy who dresses as a woman because he thinks it will make a lesbian want to have sex with him is not transgendered. He’s not living as a woman, he doesn’t identify as a woman. He’s crossdressing. Really, it’s not even drag, which is a stylized performance of gender. I think if he asked to be included in women’s spaces, that would just be silly. If, on the other hand, she’s transitioning, giving up everything she’s known as a man to live as a woman, then she has a pretty good claim to be included in women’s space, notwithstanding the prejudices of a few.

  32. piny
    piny January 30, 2006 at 12:46 pm |

    Piny, I think that maybe softpedals it. I very much doubt that transphobia is as prevalent among gay men as in the straight community, but that’s not to say that among those gay men who are transphobic, it isn’t as virulent or moreso.

    I see what you’re saying. I didn’t argue that it was necessarily less virulent; I don’t think it’s more virulent.

  33. piny
    piny January 30, 2006 at 2:04 pm |

    What does this mean, exactly? Do you believe women don’t, or can’t, complain when they’re excluded unjustifiably from a group? Do you believe that a possible connect between trans panic and misogyny necessarily means the people affected are functioning as the exact equivalent of straight women? Does the existence of gay misogynists indicate to you that gay men, white or otherwise, actually occupy a niche of “male privilege” functionally equivalent to straight men — and that this niche can automatically be considered more “privileged” than your own as a straight woman?

    I hope I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth, but…no. On all counts.

    The issue is this: men who are gay, unlike women who are lesbians, do not experience woman-hating qua woman-hating because they are not women. Their oppression is definitely linked to sexism, but they may not see it that way.

    They are arguably much less likely to see it that way than women who have experienced both misogyny and homophobia and who have had the chance to see how very similar the two kinds of hatred are. Moreover, a lot of lesbian activist theory pulls feminism and lesbian rights together; the right of women to love women is linked to the right of women to be autonomous; the right of men to love men is linked to the right of men to be free from the demands patriarchy places on them; gay-bashing is a crime against men who dare to be unmasculine.

    So some gay men see homophobia as an issue in a vaccuum and see themselves not as having been deprived of equality, but equality with men. And in a sexist society, equality with men means the right to male privilege–for example, the right to “go psycho” on someone whose attentions threaten your masculinity. The willingness of this gay man to engage in misogyny even as he’s complaining about homophobia bears that argument out. I’d bet large sums of money that he also uses anti-dyke slurs.

  34. pmoney
    pmoney January 30, 2006 at 5:57 pm |

    Wow, you are all so very smart and reasonable here. :) piny your last post was especially eloquent!

    I would just like to make a fine point (which I hope is relevant!). Like everyone here, I agree that a person has the right to know beforehand if his/her sex partner is transgender. But I also don’t see how the presence or inculsion of transpeople in a gay public space (or a hetero one, for that matter, but I’ll stick to gay for now) infringes upon ANYONE.

    For instance, if I (as a mostly straight woman) got into bed with someone I assumed was a BORN-MALE who tunrned out to be a transmale, then yes, I would be disappointed and probably irritated… not because I’m repulsed by vaginas (I’m not), but because I was expecting a penis. And frankly, even if I thought the transmale was still attractive (which is certainly possible), I wouldn’t be able to mentally/physiologically resolve the bait-n-switch – at least not QUICKLY. Cos I’m just not that cool.

    HAVING SAID THAT…. If I was simply hanging out in a public space with a transmale and we ended up flirting or kissing or something (while I assumed he was a born male) and I THEN learned he was a transmale… Why the fuck would that BOTHER me? What is the big damn PROBLEM there?

    To me, it sounds like this is mostly what the letter-writer is bitching about. God forbid he might make out with or be attracted to a GUY who turns out to be trans!?!? … shut up, whiny baby. I’m so not at ALL sympathetic w/ people who complain about their dicks getting hard for the “wrong” people.

    I’m also curious if this same sort of discrimination/hatin’ goes on in lesbian communities. Admittedly I have VERY limited knowledge about such things (even my lesbian friends don’t know too much about transgender/transexual issues), but it seems to me that lesbians are way more accepting of transwomen. Am I totally off base with this assumption???

    Please let me know. This is all very fascinating and a great education!

  35. Thomas
    Thomas January 30, 2006 at 6:19 pm |

    Pmoney, unfortunately there is some virulent transphobia in some quarters of the lesbian community. Here’s a link-farm that brought the issue up on this blog a while ago. The relevant link is Charlotte Croson’s “Sex, Lies and Feminism.”

    I think you’ve got it right that there is a right to know if one’s sex partners are trans (though I think it extends beyond the anatomy — even if you reach down between the thighs and can’t tell the difference, I think you ought to be able to pick lovers for any reason or no reason, including trans status); but there’s no right to exclude transfolk from sexual spaces just in case you get the hots for one.

  36. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost January 30, 2006 at 8:28 pm |

    Sounds like Mr. Letter-writer is as afraid of looking straight as straight macho guys are looking gay.

  37. Tarn
    Tarn January 30, 2006 at 8:58 pm |

    Thomas said:
    “I think you’ve got it right that there is a right to know if one’s sex partners are trans (though I think it extends beyond the anatomy — even if you reach down between the thighs and can’t tell the difference, I think you ought to be able to pick lovers for any reason or no reason, including trans status); but there’s no right to exclude transfolk from sexual spaces just in case you get the hots for one.”

    I’m curious as to why everyone agrees so much on this point. If someone’s physically post-transition why is it required that they tell partners? The main reason (other than the risks to the trans person) appears to be that it’s perceived as infringing on people’s choices to not partner with trans people. I don’t see why that choice is automatically deserving of respect to the degree that a trans person should disclose before having sex. Comparable examples are quite hard to find (and I’ll shout at anyone stupid enough to bring up disease,) but say we have a guy who doesn’t want to sleep with women he perceives as slutty. It’s clearly unreasonable that we expect women to disclose numbers of sexual partners in that situation, so why is it not the case that for trans people (where a very significant percentage of the reluctance stems from shitty ideas about us) we also disregard people’s preferences as legitimate in an analogous situation. If you can’t tell and you worry then why isn’t it your responsibility to ask partners and not my responsibility to disclose? I’m not sure exactly how I feel about this issue, so I’d be interested to hear people’s (non safety) related reasons to disclose.

  38. randomliberal/Robert
    randomliberal/Robert January 31, 2006 at 1:27 am |

    I’m with Tarn, piny, and pmoney here: if you’re ftm with female genitals (or mtf with male genitals), then yeah it would be nice to know before we go to bed bottoms off, if only so I’m not taken completely by surprise when the pants come off. (And for me personally, it’s not likely to change whether or not we eventually end up in bed; I like the cock and the pussy equally.) But if you’re post-op, I don’t really give a damn. Tell me, don’t tell me, whatever you’re comfortable with.

    It occurs to me that this policy is a bit unfair to transgendered people who for whatever reason don’t want to go through surgery and whatever else is necessary to change the anatomy. I think it’s reasonable though, no? This isn’t an issue I’ve thought about a lot, mostly because I’ve only known one transgendered person in my short life (and by “know” I mean I watched her play bass for a jazz band a couple of times, and might have been formally introduced to her once). So feel free to point out faultiness.

  39. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost January 31, 2006 at 2:24 am |

    Tarn, I honestly think the onus is on the potential partner to ask, if they’re that worried about it. But a lot of people just don’t even think of it, and as such it’d probably save a lot of trouble if the transperson chooses to disclose. I think the only serious responsibility here lies with both parties to be cool about it if expected genitals don’t match actual genitals and that’s a dealbreaker, and I don’t think the transperson has any more responsiblity to disclose than the potential partner has to ask.

  40. randomliberal/Robert
    randomliberal/Robert January 31, 2006 at 2:28 am |

    Allow me to latch onto what KG said. He said what I meant better than what I said.

  41. Thomas
    Thomas January 31, 2006 at 7:42 am |

    Tarn, you make a good point, and perhaps the burden is on the person with the issue to ask. When you asked for examples, I didn’t immediately think of bisexuality; I thought of race. There are plenty of people who can “pass” as a different ethnic background. If someone’s a bigot, I think they still have a right to make sex partner choices based on their irrational prejudice. (My view of autonomy in matters of sex partner choice is pretty absolute.) But of course the burden is on the bigot to ask. Same, in my view, for bisexuality and trans status (at least after bottom surgery and maybe in all cases). Like Randomliberal/Robert, I don’t have much personal stake in this: while I identify as straight, if my sex partner is a woman I don’t so much care how her genitals are configured.

    Which brings up an interesting issue: someone who is transitioning, and who can present as their birth sex. (For Alas readers, I’m thinking of Nick, but I don’t really want to start a forum on Nick’s sex life).

  42. BlogHer [beta]
    BlogHer [beta] January 31, 2006 at 7:01 pm |

    Introducing: Quote o’ the Month (Burrow at I See Invisible People)

    My colleague posted an intriguing quote, prompting me to post a quote of my own from a running series at my personal blog, Sour Duck.
    I call the series Quote o’ the Month, however, that is just a conceit; I frequently post four or five quotes in one m…

  43. Tarn
    Tarn February 1, 2006 at 12:05 am |

    Bisexuality is the best example and the one I would have used had i not been so tired, so thank you Piny- I did consider race, but there’s a little too much history in terms of instrumentalising race to use in arguments about trans and other stuff (“what if we were talking about someone who’s convinced they’re black…”) for me to be comfortable trying to compare it.
    My view at the moment is that basically I don’t feel morally obliged to disclose trans stuff where the relationship is just about sex, but for practical reasons I pretty much always would. In particular the potential backlash if someone finds out after the fact is deeply intimidating- and I’m relatively privileged here in being a dyke and hence unlikely to be murdered in true trans panic fashion if a sex partner I hadn’t disclosed to found out.

    The whole process of disclosing trans status is often pretty brutal and deeply libido killing- being in a situation where it’s clear that my partner wants to have sex and then having to have an extended discussion about trans stuff is both ridiculously unsexy and enormously scary. By the time I might be having sex with a partner there’s always going to have been some level of physical/emotional intimacy and setting myself up to be judged and rejected on a fundamental level of my identity is really painful and difficult to do. I think that’s particularly true for trans women- I’d be interested to know the extent to which trans guys feel that there’s strong undercurrents of disgust in how their bodies are perceived, as at least to me there doesn’t seem to be quite the same type of negative attitudes to trans male bodies in general as to trans female ones.

  44. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax February 1, 2006 at 2:39 am |

    So if you were a bisexual woman looking to date other women, should you feel obligated to inform your prospective dates of your bisexuality, just in case they don’t want to partner with bisexuals?

    To be honest, I always felt obligated to disclose purely for my own self-protection. Better to be rejected, for that, early rather than late. It had nothing much to do with moral qualms. Well, other than the time I was pursuing a minister to be, and felt it fairest to have all my potential-minister’s-wife drawbacks out in the open. On the moral point, I’m with Thomas (people have the right to reject other people for any reason they darn well please, even extending to bigotted reasons, but it’s up to people to ask about whatever would bother them). Practically, if I were, especially, a pre-op transsexual, I’d disclose for the same reason that I used to disclose my bisexuality – to get any rejection over with before it got more painful for me.

  45. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax February 1, 2006 at 2:44 am |

    I should add that, though I think it entirely acceptable for a lesbian woman to not choose to have sex with a bisexual woman, simply because she’s bi (it’s acceptable to not have sex with someone for any reason whatsoever), I’m less cool with bi women not being welcome in lesbian places, so I can see the distinction you’re drawing here with transmen.

  46. Tarn
    Tarn February 2, 2006 at 12:33 am |

    Piny said:
    “Of course there’s disgust; look at the letter. And transguys certainly internalize that, to varying degrees.”

    Apologies, I was being somewhat unclear; I’m not suggesting that there’s no disgust or whatever towards trans guys, rather that it operates in different ways- in particular I was thinking of my own community and tahe way that certain kinds of trans masculine or genderqueer identities (hot genderqueer trannyboys etc.) are not only welcomed but effectively fetished whilst trans women are viewed with distaste. I’m not sure that I agree that outside of a particular subset of people (transphobic gay men) that trans masculine bodies do provoke disgust in quite the same way as trans women’s. It may well be a result of the fact that trans men aren’t as publically visible as trans women, but I’d say that one of the consequences of the interaction of sexism and transphobia is a particular reaction of disgust to (and a simultaneous fascination with) trans feminine bodies.

    In transitioning trans women’s choices end up contradicting an awful lot of boys>girls stuff that’s floating around society. Because of the way that hierarchy works I think there’s probably a tendency for trans women to arouse disgust where trans guys arouse pity or scorn. Trans guys may never be considered to be men in the metric dictated by sexism and the bad end of gender norms, but they’re following the gradient of the hierarchy in a way that trans women aren’t, and that results in trans women being socially punished in a particular way. On a silly macro level it’s similar to the way that men wearing women’s clothes arouses a whole lot of other reactions than women wearing men’s.
    Everything above’s still very much half formed, and I realise I’m straying awfully close to the “I’m more of a victim/oppresed than thou” game (which is horrible and divisive) so if you’re willing to talk about it I’d be interested to hear your views on the way that society reacts to trans male bodies and the way that transguys internalize that.
    Oh, on a more informational note, if you don’t know already Bitch are running a Hot & Bothered issue soon and one of the topics they’re interested in is “post-op [not the best category, but hey] transgender desire.”

  47. piny
    piny February 2, 2006 at 1:16 pm |

    I understand that you don’t want to get into a one-up contest; that’s definitely not my intent either.

    I was thinking of my own community and tahe way that certain kinds of trans masculine or genderqueer identities (hot genderqueer trannyboys etc.) are not only welcomed but effectively fetished whilst trans women are viewed with distaste.

    But that attitude has its counterpart in the men who chase and fetishize transwomen, doesn’t it? They may not be affiliated with a community in the way that the “OMG! Trannyboyzzzz! Teh cute!!1!” attitude seems to be tied to the queer women’s community, but they’re definitely out there. And while it’s certainly safer in many ways than disgust, it’s not necessarily more respectful. As you said, it also tends to focus on a particular kind of transmasculine body–early-transition, cute’n’young–and it either ignores or actively excludes everyone else. Transguys who, y’know, look like hairy adult men, or who are not interested in being treated as cute lil’ trannyboi toys, are not welcome and do deal with disgust. Plus, there is a lot of disgust towards transguy bodies from transphobic dykes and queer women.

    As far as society at large, we tend to be lumped in with butch dykes. You have to have encountered the horrible stereotypes about their bodies. Mannish, hairy, fat, ugly, mean, abrasive…and so on. To the extent we are seen, I think we are seen that way.

    On a silly macro level it’s similar to the way that men wearing women’s clothes arouses a whole lot of other reactions than women wearing men’s.

    Women who wear feminized kinds of clothing that used to be assigned to men–suit jackets, trousers–are not punished in the same way as men who wear the clothing that still belongs to women. They’re not exactly cross-dressers; they’re wearing clothing that has been modified in order to distinguish it from male clothing. Women who actually do dress like men dress now–baggy tshirts, cargo pants, boyish haircuts–and who seem to present themselves in a potentially masculine way are treated with disgust and do face harassment and harassing violence.

    I need to do more thinking about the interactions between invisibility, admittance, and the body. I think that there’s definitely a disjunct between the way transmasculine transition is perceived and the way transmasculine bodies are perceived. If transmen can only be admitted to the class men if their bodies and the things they might do with them are nullified, I think that does imply a very deep-seated disgust.

  48. Tarn
    Tarn February 2, 2006 at 8:13 pm |

    Piny said:
    “But that attitude has its counterpart in the men who chase and fetishize transwomen, doesn’t it?”

    Yes, absolutely, but there’s no counterpart to the massive amount of “she-male” and similar porn and the accompanying fetishization of trans women. There’s a huge difference between the fetishistic attitude that springs out of the dyke community and one that’s coming from society at large and which is by definition charged with ambivalence and disgust/weirdness (after all, it’s by and large straight men who are really into particular genital configurations traditionally associated with gay men.)

    I just want to emphasise that I agree that the fetishization of trans guys is disrespectful and wrong, and that that fetishization is focused on a particular, limited, group of trans guys. I do kind of feel that I’ve strayed from the point I was badly groping towards in #50, which was a more general interest in how you, or trans guys generally, perceive and deal with attitudes towards trans bodies. I’m also not completely sure if I can get away from how I felt and feel about my own body- I slightly get the feeling in these discussions that I end up thinking about how difficult I found my own body and generalising from there.

    Piny said:
    “Women who actually do dress like men dress now–baggy tshirts, cargo pants, boyish haircuts–and who seem to present themselves in a potentially masculine way are treated with disgust and do face harassment and harassing violence.”

    I don’t want to belabour this point, as I think it’s probably enormously culturally specific, but I don’t think that it’s accurate to make that statement- butch dykes can wear guy’s clothes and get by (albeit with some issues,) but that doesn’t hold the other way around.

    Piny said:
    “If transmen can only be admitted to the class men if their bodies and the things they might do with them are nullified, I think that does imply a very deep-seated disgust.”

    I think this is probably true of trans people in general; it’s exemplified by the real men don’t get fucked school of thought, but there’s all sorts of counterparts. It seems to come down to the idea that trans people aren’t really members of their gender and if they want recognition they have to play by an extremely restrictive set of gendered rules.

    I really want to come back to this discussion and I don’t feel I have time to do it justice right now, but I’d be very interested in reading any further posts you end up writing about trans embodiment and desire.

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