Who Said Lesbians Who Don’t Sleep With Trans Women Are Bigots?

That’s not what I wrote. That’s not what I believe. And yet, I keep being told that’s what I said.

Photo by Kevin Laminto

(Note: This is a response to a reader, who wrote me on a previous article)

It is frustrating for me to see my writing so often misinterpreted. I aim to be very clear with my writing. I certainly don’t mind if we disagree with one another, but folks writing me sometimes disagree with a premise which has little to do with my point.

I agree with you 100% that sexual orientation is a very personal thing and must be respected. AT NO POINT do I say that lesbians who don’t sleep with people if they do not want to are bigots. In no way am I demanding that anyone sleep with anyone. Sex should be 100% consensual at all times.

I was making three points:

Sexuality is much more nuanced than most people think.

We are all familiar with the vector governing the gender spectrum (with male< — >female at each end, with in-between areas such as non-binary), and the vector indicating sexual orientation (with hetero< — >homo at each end, and with in-between areas such as pansexual.) I am positing that there is another vector, one of flexibility of sexual attraction. I’ve seen cases of men who consider themselves straight but experienced a sexual attraction for another man at a point in their lives. I’ve known lesbians who at one point or another have had sexual encounters with men and have enjoyed them, because of the attraction to the person.

I believe that some people have a “wider window” of attraction, or a larger flexibility driven by romantic attraction — while some other people manifest their sexual attraction in a less pliable way. And I pronounce no judgment on either case.

Even you, in your response, talk about your sexuality being fluid, whereas others’ might not be. I believe this is a factor that often gets discounted — and it’s a factor that matters.

What About Trans Men?

Are you watching Tales of the City? There’s a formerly-lesbian couple where one of the two partners has transitioned to male. Now, the other partner is grappling with her sexuality. I have personally met several couples where a straight woman, married to whom she thought was a man, now has to consider if she’s up to continuing a sexual/romantic relationship with her spouse, who is now presenting as a woman. Some couples don’t survive this. Some turn platonic. Some divorce. And some adjust, and have a healthy/romantic sex life. I believe some folks have a wider bandwidth of sexual attraction, or a wider flexibility, led by romantic attraction.

May Hong and Garcia — cast members of Tales of the City 2019

Gender, or parts?

I believe that some people say “heterosexual” or “homosexual/gay/lesbian” to mean “I only enjoy sexual/romantic contact with people of the opposite gender” or “I only enjoy sexual/romantic contact with people of the same gender” — while some other people may mean “my sexual attraction hinges upon the presence of a penis” or “my sexual attraction hinges on the presence of a vulva+vagina.” And yet some others may mean “… and those genitals better be birth-grown, not surgically achieved.” My son is gay. Recently I asked him, would you consider having sex with a trans man. He pondered it. Then he said, “I think so — it’d be interesting to have a different kind of sex while still being with a man.” (this was an unprompted, uncoached answer.) Some other gay men might demand the presence of a penis — or might recoil at the presence of a vagina. Yet some other gay men might reject a penis that was surgically achieved.

Something I am challenging, in the article, is: is the person attracted to women, or attracted to a specific body part? And even still, would they reject a trans woman who has a vulva+vagina?

And if so, how much of that rejection comes from social bias one has picked up over the years, through conditioning?

I am inviting lesbians to consider that, if a woman rejects another woman because this woman has a surgical vagina, then that’s (to a smaller or bigger degree) driven by prejudice. In her heart-of-hearts, is she thinking “she’s not a real woman”? And even further (and I’m aware I’m stretching your comfort level here), I’m saying that a lesbian woman may enjoy sex with another woman even if this other woman has a penis (I have very much seen it happen). It is extremely important for me that you understand I’m not dictating behavior or being prescriptive — I am inviting folks to consider the possible.

It is important to note that trans women seldom express their sexual selves in ways we associate with men (porn notwithstanding). Most trans women I’ve surveyed enjoy oral play, kissing, having their breasts touched, being penetrated by toys. It is common for trans women to express mild distaste to outright revulsion at the notion of using their equivalent of a clitoris for penetrative purposes. (the stereotypes one sees in porn are male-gaze driven, and usually reflect survival sex work.)

Prejudice and preconceived notions

What I define as bigotry/prejudice as pre-conceived notions of who one would sleep with or date, driven by cultural constructs or assumptions, without personal experience. In the article, I openly shared (with a degree of shame) some previous bigotry of my own, and how it shifted with familiarity and personal growth.

By this I am not accusing lesbians who don’t sleep with trans women of being bigots, every last one of them. I am inviting each person to explore themselves, in their heart, and see if they find pockets of prejudice. I once had a white lesbian tell me, “I could never go down on a Black woman.” Yet she adamantly held that she’s not racist. Racism is not a yes-or-no switch, and we all carry some level of cultural and cognitive bias. I’m asking to apply the same principle to the potential attraction to a trans woman. What is driving one’s comfort or discomfort with another human? I’m just asking for introspection.

There are so many possibilities. Is one woman simply not attracted to the other? (too butch, too femme, too tall, too short, too nerdy, too whatever?)

Is one woman attracted to the other woman until she learns the other woman is trans? And if so, is it because of body parts? And if the trans woman DOES have the ‘right body parts,’ does the first woman STILL reject her?

What I’m trying to do, is to have you consider is that there is a lot to unpack here, and I’m just hoping to start people thinking about all of this.

And I leave you with pictures from a lesbian power-couple:

Gigi Gorgeous & Nats Getty
© Cassie Brighter 2019

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Highlighting the experience of women of trans experience. Transition, Womanhood, Feminism, Intersectionality, Transphobia, Marginalization and Assimilation, and more.

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Cassie Brighter

Cassie Brighter

Activist. Public speaker. Writer. Community Organizer. Mom. Creator & Host, Empowered Trans Woman Summit. Managing Editor, EmpoweredTransWoman.com

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