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Let Trans Women Like Things

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I posted an article featuring another trans woman’s take on the latest trans “playmate” and the larger discussion/debate about how we should feel about this kind of representation.

That ignited some discussion in comments about some particulars of the article, along with questions that I think illustrate some missing pieces folks have in understanding what it means for trans women to navigate a toxic culture that only values a certain kind of beauty.

What’s a Fetish?
Some folks take issue with talking about the phenomenon of chasers* as “fetish” behavior. Because, shouldn’t we just classify attraction as simple attraction? Doesn’t that shame people who are legitimately attracted to us?

[Chaser: A person who seeks out trans people solely to objectify them and fulfill a sexual fantasy.]

Let me be clear. Being attracted to a trans person isn’t a fetish. But for many, many men — having sex with a trans woman absolutely is. These (mostly cis and straight) men (and some women) try to fulfill that fetish in ways that are 100% characteristic of that behavior.

To them, we are not women. We are resources to be used to obtain a kind of sex that they want to have. We call those fetishists chasers in trans culture and they are everywhere. Ask me sometime about my brief, harrowing foray into online dating. Or ask any trans woman about dating.

For our safety we need to be able to describe that behavior. Because men who do this are all too likely to be extremely dangerous — since they are unlikely to see us as human beings worthy of respect and love.

This is something that trans women know well and talk about among ourselves for our safety.

Our Razor Thin Path
A key takeaway I’d like for my cis friends to note in the public discussion about trans sexuality, trans beauty, trans attraction, and the way trans women’s bodies are specially examined in our culture is the paradox that we live under.

Trans women have a razor thin path of beauty and behavior that we have to walk if we don’t want our authenticity questioned.

The debate that inevitably follows every major public celebration of a conventionally beautiful trans woman appears to make us especially responsible for bearing the burden of patriarchal beauty standards.

That’s not fair.

For us, it’s a choice between being seen as colonizing men who are reinforcing traditional patriarchal women’s roles … or failing to perform womanhood well enough that we are simply seen as men who don’t know how to do it right. Yes, failing to perform beauty has severe repercussions for all women.

But for us, those repercussions are particularly severe.

I won’t bore you with the statistics. But it can be a choice between safety and violence. Between homelessness and employment. Between life and death.

Let Trans Women Like Things
Because we are alternately fetishized or delegitimized depending on how well and exactly what degree we perform femininity for y’all, I would like everyone to lay off us and let us choose for ourselves where we want to land.

We have the same complicating factors that all women have when choosing how we want to participate in patriarchy and objectification.

But we have a lot more on the line, too.