TRIGGER WARNING: I talk about misgendering, and about the disrespecting of lived gender identities in this post. I talk about recent horrifically transphobic court rulings. Take care of yourself. If you need a break from this shit, don’t read on.
I have been neglecting this blog because of a poetry project I’ve been doing,but I’ll try and post a bit more regularly now.
I was really happy to hear about DOMA finally dying. REALLY happy. Much, much happier than I expected to be, and it wasn’t like I wasn’t hoping for it. I suppose when the international LGBT community gets some good news, that’s nice. When the news affects a country I have strong ties to, that’s nicer. When the change in law gives me, specifically, as the British same sex spouse of a New York native, more rights than I had before, it’s pretty damned potent.
Also, I genuinely did not think it would happen anything like this fast . I thought I’d be retired before I could start thinking about a life in the States. My wife and I might not take advantage of the fact that we could now apply for my right to live in the USA, but we might. And we could. And that’s powerful.
Why am writing this on my blog about being a trans ally? please read on.
This whole time, the fight for marriage equality in the UK, in the US ,France, wherever has simultaneously been filling me with hope and making me sad. Filling me with hope because It seems like a step in the right direction to stop defining marriage as a totally heterosexual thing. Whether you set any store by the institution of marriage or not, you want to be able to make that choice about whether or not you opt into it, not have that choice made for you. And it does seem like we are heading in the right direction, slowly, slowly, slowly. Speaking for myself, marriage IS a part of my life, so of course I’m happy. But it’s making me sad because some of the people fighting for those rights for me seem to think that marriage equality for transgender people is worth sacrificing in order to gain it for the same sex cisfolk. Actually, I’m not married, although I say I am. I’m in a civil partnership. And were I or my wife (sorry, “partner”) to transition, we’d be neither. We’d have to start over from scratch.
Leaving ASIDE the highly icky ‘separate but equal’ vibes of a two tier system like marriage/civil partnership, leaving ASIDE the fact that ‘civil partnership’ sounds like a business relationship between two people who secretly loathe each other, that whole shebang was a compromise brokered by people who don’t really think of transgender people as getting married, or staying married once their spouse discovered the ‘dread secret’. (You can read more about the appalling sidelining of trans rights in the fight for same sex marriage equality here, from Sarah Brown.)
And this, I think, is where we get to the nasty little crux of the matter. People making the laws about marriage don’t really, REALLY think transgender people have loving, committed relationships. Not REALLY. A scenario in which someone married transitions and their partner doesn’t want to divorce them never enters their head. A scenario where someone with a trans history they’d rather move on from altogether gets married, and that, on learning their medical history, their partner wouldn’t – indeed shouldn’t – run screaming to court to get the marriage annulled just doesn’t pop into their head.
Because behind all the nice talk of equality and diversity and recognition and support, they don’t think trans people are really the gender they say they are.
And this week, that nasty little truth has been brought brutally to the forefront of everybody’s minds with the ruling that trans people who have sex without being able to later prove that they have told the other person that they are transgender can be prosecuted and placed on the sex offenders’ register.
This is a ruling that makes total sense if and only if you think, somewhere deep in your heart, that transgender people are just pretending. If you think ‘well, he’s clearly a bloke, but, bless him, he’s happier in a dress and being called Sharon, so why not eh?’ then you’re not going to like the idea of this so called ‘Sharon’ having sexual relationships in the context of her own gender identity.
Now. let me be clear on two things. One: I think it’s probably WISE to let your sexual partner know what bits you currently have before you get down and dirty. It’s good manners, and might avoid a nasty scene if, say, the person you’re with has had some bad experiences regarding sex and doesn’t take well to surprises. Two: It is never OK to force sex without consent. If your partner suddenly freaks out at the crucial moment for ANY REASON AT ALL, you stop. Nobody is saying that that isn’t true. We are not talking about that tired old transphobic trope of trans people raping/assualting cis people. That’s not what’s happened. We are talking about consensual sex which a cis person later discovers was with a trans person.
THE SEX OFFENDER’S REGISTER IS FOR SEX OFFENDERS. NOT FOR PEOPLE HAVING CONSENSUAL SEX. THERE IS NO STATUTORY RAPE CLAUSE FOR TRANS/CIS SEX.
Except that, thanks to this case, there kind of is, now.
So what, other than timing, has this got to do with my happy tears about the fall of DOMA?
It’s this. If you think trans people should disclose their birth-assigned gender before they have sex, you don’t believe in their actual gender, do you?
And if you think it’s important enough to put them on the sex offenders’ register, then the idea of having sex with someone of the ‘wrong’ gender, even if you’re into it and you fancy them and you both have a great time, scares you a lot.
And if that scares you, then you think there is a right gender and a wrong gender
And a right way to have sex and a wrong way to have sex.
Transphobia is a fucking tewrrible thing on its own. But its not on its own.
Because it’s also homophobia, and it’s also sexism.
And when I think about how happy that step forward in marriage equality made me, and i apply that inversely to all the trans people who are wondering, now, whether vengeful exes could retroactively get them prosecuted for obtaining sex through ‘deception’. When I think how frightened, and demoralised and crushed they feel now, I can’t believe that people are asking me why I am so upset by this. And I wish I was a selfless enough person that I could say that this is all about empathy and solidarity, but it’s not.
Cisgender readers: this shit affects us. If we are queer, if we are women, if we care about anyone who is queer or a woman, transphobia has direct implications for us.
LGB rights lobbyists, if you sacrifice trans rights to get what you want, you are validating transphobic, but also homophobic attitudes.
Feminists, if you buy into the myth that trans women are a danger to you, you buy into the myth not only that trans women aren’t women, but also that male and female always = sexual aggressor and victim.
Why am I upset about this?
The question you need to ask is, why aren’t you?