Content and trigger warnings: Sexism, transphobia, graphic imagery.
“I’m not a racist, but…”
I’m not transphobic, but…”
“I’m not sexist, but…”
Have you noticed that nothing good ever comes after these statements? I don’t think it’s possible to actually follow these words with something that makes them true unless they make absolutely no contextual sense; like, “I’m not a racist, but it’s a nice day today.” If you’re feeling the need to preface your thought with one of these types of disclaimers, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be lying to both yourself and others. These types of statements can offer you an eye-opening look into the people you thought you knew. Once upon a time I had a friend whom I thought was a really great transgender ally. He’d certainly been supportive of me since day one. Then, one day, I came across this little gem on his Facebook feed.
Trigger warning: transphobia
My skin crawls when I read that…
Obviously, I removed him from my friends list. This might seem like an entire post dedicated to striking back at a single person who pissed me off on Facebook, but I’m using this as a launching point because it encapsulates so many of the broader notions I see surrounding this kind of thinking. You’ll note the multiple instances of “I know THING X, but…” in here; a soft-sounding preface that does nothing to dampen the blow of vile, anti-trans rhetoric that follows.
There are a lot of people who think this is a a reasonable argument. After all, how does your “preference for vaginas” mean you don’t respect the identities of transgender women? Well, because that’s not what attraction is. If you’re attracted to women then you’re attracted to women. Yes, not all women will connect with you, but your mind has set that as a prerequisite to attraction. You look for femininity in a mate, and I mean that in both a romantic and sexual way.
A “preference for vaginas” has nothing to do with love or even attraction; it’s a fetish. Wanting to pleasure yourself with a vagina is a fetish, as is wanting to pleasure yourself with a penis. On their own, fetishes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Our bodies crave pleasurable stimulation and do have preferences for said stimulation. Some people get off being hit, others being tied up. Some people like to role play. Other’s like using toys. All of these things are fine. The problem with statements like the one above is that they reduce the person you’re talking about to your fetish and nothing more. At that point, you’ve stripped them of their person-hood.
To say a transgender woman with a penis flirting with you is “false advertising” reaches a level of trans-misogyny that’s beyond the pale. She advertised nothing false. She’s a woman. She flirted with you as a woman. You recognized that femininity and thus responded to said flirting. Nothing false was implied here on her part. You, however, are falsely implying that you see her as a person when you’re really just thinking of her as a walking vagina. Statements like this just prove that you don’t see trans women as women, and you only see cis women as the sum of their genitals.
Take a moment to step outside you’re ego-centric machismo worldview and consider this same scenario from the perspective of the trans woman you’re flirting with. If she is pre-op or has chosen not to undergo surgery, she’s literally gambling with her life right now in hopes of making a human connection. A cisnormative society teaches us to assume people’s genitalia without question. Woman = vagina and man = penis. Even if you two do make it all the way to the bedroom, what exactly do you think is going through her mind? Do you not think she’s considered the exact scenario of being accused of “false advertising” you’re so casually discussing here? She knows you’re likely expecting a vagina and it’s highly unlikely she’s gotten to this obvious moment prior to intercourse without having that conversation with you. Do you really think she’s just going to let you lift up her skirt and be surprised? That’s the stuff that gets trans women killed! What you’re treating as a moment of disappointment is, to her, a literal life-and-death situation.
If you absolutely need a vagina to pleasure yourself then you’re doing it wrong. Transgender women are every bit as capable of satisfying you as cisgender women. We can be just as erotic, just as adventurous, and just as sexy as any cis woman you’ve ever fantasized about. What this really boils down to is you seeing transgender women as men out to trick you into screwing them and that’s just about as low as it gets. It’s not that you have a “preference for vaginas”, you just don’t want to have sex with a trans woman because you see that as having sex with a man and you’re too homophobic to get over that.
Trust me, transgender women are no strangers to the darker sides of fetishism. The derogatory term “tranny” was coined by the porn industry for their videos about sex with pre-op transgender women. Yes, that is a fetish some people have, and it reduces us again to the sum of our parts and nothing more (and this is why you should never call a transgender person that word). I’ve been hit on by a guy before only to have him tell me he had “a thing for chicks with cocks”, and I was instantly repulsed.
You don’t have a “preference for vaginas”; you have a fetish that you allow to fill the void in your heart where actual human connection is supposed to be. You’re a pig trying to dress up your transphobia as you being the real victim in all of this. And most of all, you certainly don’t “respect transgender people, but…”