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Note: This is primarily just an archival post of my recent article at Autostraddle, however I added a few comments below to clarify a couple of points (the added/edited parts will appear in underline). Anyone who feels the urge to argue with me over this article, please feel free to go to the original Autostraddle post, as I will continue reading every comment that is posted there. Also note that I have already posted a follow-up comment on this.
Recently, I went on a dinner date with a cis woman that ended a bit awkwardly. Some of the conversation we shared was nice, we talked about film (fyi – an easy topic to hold my interest, ladies!), our common roots back in the States, and her background in performance art. At one point she shared with me her frustrations over a performance meant to showcase artists from our region in the U.S. The thing is, whoever put together this particular exhibition had invited a number of men from her theatre program to participate — meanwhile she and several of the other women who graduated from the program found out about the event later when one of the guys posted it on facebook.
It’s pretty easy to feel anger over such blatant sexism, and it immediately reminded me of some of my own experiences of feeling ignored at times in my own workplace. But then she said something that struck a really odd chord:
“Yeah, it’s supposed to represent artists from the South, but it turns out it’s just a total sausage fest.”
Okay, we all get the basic intended meaning here. But is she really implying that the men who were invited to exhibit their work were asked to do so on the basis of their genitalia? I have to say that, since my transition, being a woman with a penis never got me special treatment in the academic world. And given that she was aware of my body configuration I have to think that is a strange comment to make to me on a date.
Sadly, the situation only further deteriorated with the appearance of the word “ladyboy,” and the fact that somehow the subject kept getting changed when I tried to discuss these things. Read the rest of this entry »
So a couple days ago my first piece landed over at Autostraddle: Getting With Girls Like Us: A Radical Guide to Dating Trans* Women for Cis Women. As I’ve read AS off and on through the last couple of years, I’ve thought before that I would hope to someday have the opportunity to publish something with them. Particularly, I was impressed with several amazing pieces from Annika.
As Annika recently decided to focus on other aspects of her life– writing her farewell piece for Autostraddle as she rode off into the sunset– I was a little saddened to think that we wouldn’t have new articles for her to look forward to in the future. But I admit I was also intrigued when AS linked to one of my pieces in their call for submissions for the Trans*Scribe theme issue, featuring trans women telling their stories from their own perspectives in their own words.
The piece that I chose to submit for Trans*Scribe was kind of a belated follow-up to my previous article on dating as a trans woman in the queer women’s communities, which was originally published at Prettyqueer, focusing on my feelings of distance and sometimes alienation dating as a trans woman. Primarily, I viewed that article as a call for dialogue between cis women and trans women on trans woman inclusion in the queer women’s communities (not that my piece is the first article along those lines, far from it). However, while that piece focused a bit more on an argument for trans woman inclusion, the recent piece at Autostraddle was a bit more focused towards women who might already be dating trans women or explicitly open to that possibility (of course, some trans women aren’t really separable in any obvious way from the larger cis woman population in the first place, and then a number of these questions are somewhat of a moot point anyways).
The follow-up piece has been something I’ve been planning to do for a while, in part because I wanted to clarify and refine a few points from the earlier article. That includes the statement I made in the more recent piece about the so-called “Cotton Ceiling” that had originally proposed in the context of the No More Apologies conference back in January 2012. The comment in the recent piece, basically stepping back from that particular framing of the issue, is something I had been planning on writing about for quite a while (unfortunately, I’m not always the fastest writer; luckily the Autostraddle window provided me with the right opportunity to put together a lot of these thoughts that I had had in mind for a while).
The discussion about why the Cotton Ceiling isn’t the best way to frame the issue is something that I plan to return to and make a more detailed comment about at some point in the future. For now, however, I will just point to this particular important comment that was left on the Autostraddle article.
I have to say I totally did not see the overwhelming response the more recent article has received coming at all; the comment thread has blown up in a way that I just never expected. By and large those comments have been supportive, expressing that they gained insight into trans women’s issues and perspectives. However, there has also been significant pushback from a number of (I’ll be generous and say) trans-critical women (and a couple of men as well).
I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify a few points here that keep recurring on the comment thread. Read the rest of this entry »
As a femme trans woman usually attracted to other femme women, I am generally welcomed in spaces designated as ‘women and trans,’ and I have no shortage of queer cis woman friends, with many of whom I share a playful flirtation. But what I usually keep to myself is this: what I experience in these respects sometimes feels closer to tolerance than acceptance.
I am invited to more formal social functions, yet I often find myself outside the conversation, feeling awkward about my presence at the end of the table. My experience as a trans woman is often the most immediate story I have to share; yet as the other women nearby nod politely before changing the subject, I sometimes get the feeling I have only managed to other myself by sharing it. Unsurprisingly, this situation is not so conducive to meeting potential partners. And anyways, I sometimes get the feeling that my body does not have the same type of desirability.
Perhaps worse, there are moments when desire is expressed towards me in a context that I would prefer it not be expressed (more about that in a moment).
Previous to my transition, I was pretty deep in hiding. As a quirky intellectual-type with a good sense of humor I did attract women, but I often lacked the confidence to recognize attraction, much less act on it. And anyways it felt strange when others showed interest in my outwardly masculinized form.
Fortunately, as my physical body evolved during transition so did my confidence. And while I think my personality changed little, in the end I became the opposite of my pre-transition self in one respect: where previously I had been more timid, today I am forward and flirtatious (and good at making you laugh!). Generally dating is a bit more pleasant, and I do feel more involved in the game.
However, there are moments when I wonder if there wasn’t some quick saturation point I should have expected to encounter.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that sex isn’t available. I actually turn down many who aren’t willing to share intimacy on terms that seem equitable to me. A good illustration of this point occurred recently on a dating site I use: a woman wrote to me a few months back with a great deal of interest based on my profile. She came on a bit strong for me, but I try to be open so I put in the effort of corresponding. After about three or four quite long messages I decided to disclose my trans status, just to avoid wasting time in case that would turn out to be a hang-up; unsurprisingly, I never heard from her again. While there is nothing so unusual about this, the fact that she was an academic with a Ph.D. in Social Policy and a Masters in gender studies had led me to believe she might be more open.
However, soon after I received an odd message from a second woman who was unusually forward and seemed to be looking for something specific. She insisted that I provide a description of my body while making it clear she was interested in a no strings sexual encounter, and further hoped she might eventually take me home for a three-way with her male partner. While I think we all get these kinds of messages occasionally, I noticed that these two women had visited my profile within a few minutes of each other, suggesting that the first woman probably tipped the second off about my trans status.
Put another way, once I revealed that I was trans I instantly ceased to be a viable romantic partner and instead became a potential fuck-toy; the fact that the second woman further insisted that I describe my body in detail almost screamed, “What have you got for us between your legs, tranny?!”
Indeed, it’s not unusual for me to hear back on conversations in which one cis woman will respond, “Oh, so you’re into kink” when another cis woman acknowledges she has previously dated trans women (including myself), implying that merely viewing a body like mine as sexually desirable is outside the bounds of ordinary human intimacy.
Hence I find myself in an unpleasant conundrum: de-sexed in polite lesbian society, yet hypersexualized at the margins (preferably behind closed doors, it would seem). Caught somewhere between untouchable and walking kink is a lonely place for any woman to live.
It is for these reasons, and more, that a group of trans women activists here in Toronto (with support from Planned Parenthood and an amazing cis woman Kate Klein) put together a recent workshop that was titled, “No more apologies: Queer trans and cis women, coming/cumming together!” The idea of the workshop was to provide an opening point for a larger dialogue about trans woman inclusion in queer women’s spaces/communities and social settings.
On the one hand, we addressed the manner in which trans women and cis women fight many of the same battles, as traditional sexism targets us all socially (among other ways), while misogyny undermines our common womanhood and humanity. On the other hand, we also addressed the various ways in which cissexism divides our communities from within. For example, trans-misogyny specifically dehumanizes trans women while further serving to alienate trans and cis women from one another, when we should otherwise be natural allies (if not lovers!).
Indeed, three key points we developed to describe the motivations for the workshop vis-a-vis the queer women’s communities were:
- Because trans inclusion means more than just saying “women and trans people” in our mission statements.
- Because welcoming trans women into our spaces is not the same as welcoming them into our beds.
- Because our actions are speaking louder than our words.
To be clear, our intentions in the workshop were not to question anyone’s attraction. However, there is no question that social context and social conditioning inform sexual desire. And given the number of times that I have lost a cis woman’s interest—which at times has been accompanied by outright disrespect—precisely at the moment that my status as a trans woman has been revealed betrays the fact that crude social anxieties often play a role (think “how will my friends react,” or the particularly silly “am I still lesbian if I sleep with her?”).
It is with this hands-off acceptance of trans women in mind that one of our organizers, Drew Deveaux, proposed “the cotton ceiling”; that is, the idea that queer acceptance of trans women often proceeds only to a point (that saturation point I mentioned previously).
However, there are other dynamics at play as well. For example, another project organizer, Morgan Page, has previously written about trans acceptance in ‘queer and trans’ spaces, and how this often essentially means acceptance for trans men exclusively. Personally, I like to think that the situation in this regard might be improving here in Toronto, and that trans men and trans women are at least more likely to work together these days. But while leaning against the wall at a party or a club, watching while masculine spectrum individuals get most of the attention, it’s not difficult to see Morgan’s point.
Overall, I think the workshop was a huge success; many of us here in Toronto are still reflecting on it, and some have already begun proposing the next events (with most of those proposals coming from cis women!). With that in mind, I sincerely hope that No More Apologies might provide a breaking point for a larger dialogue about trans woman inclusion, not only in queer women’s social settings but also in queer women’s politics.
In the meantime, if you’re a beautiful woman and I meet you on the street, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll flirt with you and try to make friends. If you show interest, I promise I’ll play it off real sexy, like it’s no big deal. But I admit it: deep down what I’d really like to think is that if we share sexual intimacy, then maybe we could do something real kinky:
Yeah, that sounds nice.
This article originally appeared at PrettyQueer.