If you are at all aware of the sex/gender discourse, you are probably aware of the increasingly common social conflicts in the dating sphere. For example, the assertion that cissexual lesbians not wanting to have sex with trans women is being transphobic. Women are women, right? it is a statement I embrace wholeheartedly, everyone should be the version of themselves which makes life worth living. So, that said, it is entirely possible that my pansexual and autistic worldview is missing something when I say this but, I feel like the issue at hand is not the preference but the way people express it and the fact that such an expression has rendered an entire group fearful for their health and safety should they not match what their potential partner expects.
As someone who has spent their much of their life depressed and ridiculed for having a wildly different gender expression from my sex, and having a build which does not match my sex either, I can empathize with the feelings one experiences when being rejected like that because, all of a sudden, you are just your genitals. I know from experience how much that situation sucks.
No, it worse than sucks. ‘Sucks’ is hardly strong enough to encompass the devastation. It fucking hurts like hell to open yourself up to another person only to have them spout boiling hate or dump frozen dispassion into that gap in your armor. Just like metal suddenly exposed to those extremes, your identity just friggin crumbles. Maybe only a little, maybe a whole lot. Whichever the case, the fact remains that your evening went from you hoping to find some shared intimacy with another to you feeling utterly alone and sobbing into your pillow--or worse should things go extremely sideways,
The fact of the matter is, some lesbians like having sex only with other vagina owners who have a femme-leaning presentation. Others prefer butch partners. There are, however, also lesbians who are attracted to women, regardless of presentation, and not necessarily vaginas. None of these things is inherently awful. They are just preferences which should be as trivial as liking red hair or taller partners. Talking about one’s sex and gender should be something one can feel safe about discussing with their date. That conversation should be as mundane as saying how I cannot stand sushi or that I prefer Sicilian-style pizza. For now, though, that is hardly ever the case–and THAT is the issue.
Because the other side of that preference coin is the truth that speaking up about one’s identity, to an otherwise random person is not safe, like, at all. it is that fact, not their preferences, which are the actual expression of transphobia. It is about denial of confidence that one’s identity will be respected on a societal level. It is a fear so personal, so intimate that for many trans individuals it is a tragically fundamental part of their identity. In the same way that antelope are always watching for lions, trans individuals out on a date have to constantly be cognizant of the potential for an escalation of danger. There is always the fear that a potential partner will react in such a visceral, emotional way to who they are that it could result in the romantic and sexual hopeful being emotionally battered, physically bruised, or, sometimes, in states worse than that.
Sure, random violence is far more likely to target queer targets, but the dangers present in dating are much more personal. The victimizing is done by people that the victims thought cared about them, people they invited into their homes, people who were one hundred percent into the mood two seconds ago but are now shouting and waving a knife around.
At any rate, as a linguist, I feel like this oft-times perilous social quandary is due, in part, to our language having evolved from a basis of oppositions. This and that. Me and you. Here and there. That divide, that othering, has only become stricter as the grip on culture by those in power grows tighter. Keeping things fragmented, keeping things focused on those divisions, while the unifying terms are erased or corrupted is the means to keep the masses from realizing they share so much. It is why I use generally Queer over the increasingly fragmented acronym. Because while precise language is all well and good but when you are occupied counting grains of sand, you forget that the tide is coming in. When you work to put everything in neat boxes, those that do not fit end up put to the side or crammed into spaces they do not fit. When that happens, the humanity of those others is lost and the empathy for one’s fellows is eroded. Those who do not fit are treated as a nuisance, a burden, something to be gotten rid of and that is used to justify inflicting suffering.
There is a charge in Wicca, “Do as you will, but harm none” and that statement is a core tenant of my beliefs as a person and is, to me, the embodiment of what civilization attempts to be. Society is the compromise between Us and Myself. It relies on seeing ourselves in ‘we’ and ‘us’ remembering that ‘we’ is made of many ‘individuals’. We are all human. We should all be afforded the same respect and opportunity. However, when ‘Me’ gains more influence, when the desires of ‘Me’ eclipse ‘Us,’ you end up with the same deliberate harm as not having a word for something.
As much as it might seem contrary to what I just said, I feel like not having the words to discuss the idea that sex and gender are separate parts of a person’s identity only deepens the irrational fears of those predisposed to hate towards “others.” Without the ability to discuss an issue, to give it a form people can integrate into their own awareness, developing a societal understanding is likely impossible and that only results in escalation born of desperation both to be recognized and to defend against the unknown–and that paradox, that inexorable tension, is one of the greatest threats to a society and culture.
I do not claim to have an answer for this impasse, but I would like to believe some of what I write can help open that conversation up a bit more. I might not always hit the mark perfectly, but I promise to be as respectful as possible when it comes to writing what are typically vulnerable, intimate moments between people just starting to get to know each other. I want nothing more than to treat those moments of great trust with the dignity they deserve. I want to keep making stories about these moments which end in something besides cruelty.
Many might say never having cruel things happen is fanciful escapism. However, if someone considers the premise that humans might actually someday possess even a small empathy for others to be an escapist fantasy too far from reality to enjoy… I weep for them.
I write Speculative Fiction. I write the stuff of dreams and hopes and of fantasies. I spin tales of fears and regrets and of doubts. This sandbox I play in is full of adventures in space, across worlds unknown, and through times unwritten. There are stories during times of peace and during war. This genre of the fantastic is home to billions of other people living in other times and other places. Surely there is some reality where being trans or even altersex is just part of who people are. And I invite you to join me there.