I’ve just read a blog post on “Femonade”, self-styled as a radical feminist blog. The post is entitled “The Cotton Ceiling? Really?” and can be read here. In fact, I would advise you to read it through to the end before you read the rest of this post, or it won’t make much sense!
Back with me? Great! Now, you’re probably pretty confused right now, so let me summarise Femonade’s blog post for you:
She, as a radical feminist lesbian, has been having an increasingly heated (and bizarre) e-mail dialogue with a radical trans activist. The trans activists believes in the existence of something she calls the “cotton ceiling”. This refers to the difficulty that she feels trans lesbians have in persuading female-born lesbians to have sex and relationships with them (with “cotton” referring to underwear).
I know from my partner’s experience (she is a trans lesbian, in case anyone doesn’t already know this) that there is an awful lot of transphobia in the gay and lesbian community, just as there is in the community at large. I also know that many trans people have great difficulty finding willing sexual partners who are not simply fetishistic, and therefore a long-term relationship can seem to be largely impossible. I myself was very nervous when I first met D. I knew I was attracted to her as a woman, but didn’t know what to expect in the bedroom. I was willing to take that risk, many people aren’t (it was well worth it, by the way!). However, D is a post-operative transwoman, meaning that she has had full gender reassignment surgery. To put it bluntly, she has a vagina, not a penis. This made things a lot easier when it came to having sex with her, as I have never been attracted to the male genitalia.
Going back to that e-mail exchange – it soon becomes apparent that the trans activist who Femonade is talking to is not only talking about post-operative trans lesbians. She is also talking about transwomen who have not had gender reassignment surgery. Suddenly, they are having a completely different conversation. The trans activist feels that female-born lesbians would be quite happy to have sex with pre-operative trans lesbians if only they could get over their general transphobia. She also believes that every transwoman is “female-bodied”, whether they’ve had surgery or not.
By the time I had read this far, I was firmly with Femonade on this one. Pre-operative transwomen are not female-bodied. Surely, this is the whole problem which trans people have to deal with – feeling that they were born trapped in the wrong body.
Now, I really do believe that all trans people should have the choice as to whether to go ahead with gender reassignment surgery or not. Changing your body so radically is a big step and may be too big a risk. Some trans people genuinely feel that they can live life in their chosen gender without needing the surgery and fair play to them. It’s a very brave choice. However, I think to suggest that lesbians who don’t want to have sex with male-bodied trans lesbians are in some way transphobic is simplistic and wrong. As Femonade rightly points out, there are issues such as pregnancy to consider, something which no transwoman has to consider in her sexual relationships unless she wants to. Plus, sexual orientation is a strong impulse (ask anyone who’s ever tried to deny theirs) and for most lesbians, a penis is a complete no-no. It would be for me, and I have been in a relationship with a transwoman for 11 years.
So far, so much in agreement with Femonade, whilst still having some sympathy with the trans activist’s views even though her “female-bodied” argument is, in my opinion, complete crap.
Until I read on, beyond the pie-chart style analysis. Until I came to this line:
“and the spot where orange and pink touch (BUT DONT OVERLAP) is i *think* what redacted trans was talking about in his email, but im not sure.”
Hang on a sec… does that say *his* e-mail? I had to zoom back up to the original e-mail exchange. Yes, the trans activist definitely identifies herself as a trans woman, whether she’s still male-bodied or not.
Now, it is commonly known amongst anyone who has had anything whatsoever to do with trans people that you never, I mean never, refer to a trans person as anything other than his/her chosen gender, whether they are pre- or post-operative. As soon as she has identified to you as trans, you call a transwoman “she” and “her”, no matter how she looks or sounds. If you do make a mistake (which is easy enough, even my partner has been known to do it with other trans people in the past) you apologise and correct yourself immediately.
Perhaps this was a single slip-up by Femonade in a heated moment, I thought, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Then I came to the last paragraph, which I am re-producing here in its entirety, just to make things clear:
“these are all serious questions, and i dont think they are answerable, while still holding fast to the trans-ideology that is displayed in the above email exchange, where trans lesbians are supposed to be the same as lesbian women, and a lesbian woman could be in a same-sex relationship with someone who identified as a trans lesbian. (ie. both are female, and not male). so instead of answering, this would probably be the part where the transactivist tells me to shut up. or, is this where he threatens to kill me? im kinda rusty, as i havent done this in awhile. im sure i will find out soon enough.”
There is so much wrong with this relatively short paragraph, I really don’t know where to begin. Femonade doesn’t hold with the idea that “trans lesbians are…the same as lesbian women” or that “a lesbian woman could be in a same-sex relationship with someone who [identifies] as a trans lesbian”. As if this is not bad enough, she then fully expects the trans activist (who she again refers to as “he”) to threaten to kill her!
I’m sorry, Femonade, but with that one paragraph you just invalidated your whole argument. You are transphobic. Horribly so. Not only do you not consider transwomen to be women at all (hence your use of the wrong pronouns), you don’t believe that a female-born lesbian such as myself could possibly consider herself to be in a same-sex relationship if she’s dating a transwoman. That’s classic transphobia, and it completely invalidates the very good points you make in the rest of your post.
This is a terrible shame, as the sort of double-thinking argument which the trans activist is using really should be called out for what it is – total rubbish. But she’s not spouting this nonsense because she’s a transwoman. She’s spouting it because she believes it. There is a big difference. Just because you (and I) believe that she is wrong, that is no excuse for attacking her gender identity.