Content Warnings: sexuality, genital mention //
Cis people, straight or queer, both have a notable bad habit of equating genitalia to gender and attraction to genitalia too, even when claiming to be trans friendly and respecting their trans friend’s pronouns, etc. (all the basics of trans support.) It’s understandable that it is not easy to deprogram these assumption-based biases that appear in casual conversation.
You’ve heard it before, “Lesbians don’t like dick,” “Gay men don’t like vaginas,” etc. Both ultimately are what the implications and hints point to, definitively.
What’s wrong with this thought process? Who does it hurt? Trans people, of course, people who are questioning and in relationships with people who might have one sexuality they think might not include them based on the message of casual transphobia like this. People are complex and unique and there’s many circumstances that change things for people. Gender changes sometimes, not in accordance with what’s expected.
The vilification of penises for the idea of a penis-free lesbian life comes from TERF and lesbian separatist rhetoric that has ultimately harmed the lesbian community in general. It severs the tie between many people in the trans lesbian community and the cis lesbian community, especially among trans women and/or trans fem people (nonbinary or binary) who feel comfortable with keeping their penis or genitals, including intersex people. The framing of the common way to speak about lesbianism vilifies and excludes trans women, intersex people, with gender or lack thereof as if they are incompatible with lesbianism to begin with. This is incorrect of course, as cis lesbians must adapt their “definitions” of lesbianism to include all directions someone might come from with their gender and sexuality and want to be included in lesbian attraction.
Next, there is also a present and popular “fear” of vaginas from the gay men’s communities too. It’s commonly this mixed with an obsession with penises to the point of invalidating any men who do not have one that is capable of penetrating on a basis of size and it “mattering.” What of the men who have smaller dicks because we are trans? Are we not men based on these assumptions?
I ask this: Where is there space for us? I ask this again, and again, internally every time I hear these ways people talk within the community. I’d like to hope that queer cis people would be inclusive but it’s not always true. Everyone has a place where they can improve, and some people need to improve in this area of their life and understanding of society and its people.
There isn’t even a space for nonbinary experiences in these worldviews, whether they also treat them the same way – with allyship you have to believe is there, whether or not there’s proof.
Ultimately this stuff is very unsettling, being expected to accept and understand that these people “mean well” and “do accept trans people” even when they are doing what the transphobe do who preach nuclear families, said “family values” and rules we ought to follow according to them.
The way that supposed leftists and allies casually speak of relationships or attractions or bodies in a cisnormative way, is that any different from what the transphobes do – really? Just in a nicer package?
Refusing to shift your worldview or way of speaking does not communicate allyship to me. And being an ally is something one cannot claim but must always work towards, given by the society they seek to aid. Where do we exist? Are we always going to be bound to being a footnote, something to be considered, an afterthought?
Trans people deserve the recognition and inclusion within discussions on bodies and gender, attraction, and sexuality. To do any less is not the action of an ally but that of a person who has a lot to learn still. We must divorce ourselves from the prescribed idea of penis = man/gay and vagina = woman/lesbian. It’s pervasive and gets into our lives when we least expect it, even as trans people.
Lesbians do not default prefer one genitalia over another, because women and various nonbinary people who want to be included in lesbian attraction come in various shapes, forms, and sizes. The same goes for gayness in masculine circles. There must be an understanding that there is inclusion of trans people at every step of the way in different attraction spheres.
Why do trans people have to do all the legwork of just “knowing” and “trusting” that some cis people saying these things in question mean to include us by default? In what world does equating genitals to gender in any form or level of implication somehow serve as trans activism and inclusion? It’s easy to fall into that trap but we must resist it as people and activists.
This also implies that all trans people seek to have the genitalia that their cis counterparts would have, for trans men and women at least. Which is not always true, and people need to learn to accept that genitalia can be affixed to anyone of any gender of lack thereof. How we interact with ours Is on an individual basis that shouldn’t be assumed based on how one interacts with the cis counterpart of their gender.
Before anyone gets angry at me, no, this article is not here to tell you that you CAN’T have a genital preference, but to think on more why you have one. It’s valid for trauma related stuff of course** but if you’re still equating one genitalia with one gender that’s a problem regardless of how you feel about engaging with people of diverse genders or lack thereof.
[**EDIT 9/5/2021: After some deliberation I would like to retract my statement that “trauma makes it okay.” No, I fully believe people are responsible to unpack their own trauma in their own time and not make it the problem of a trans person to solve. We are not here to have to prove ourselves to each cis person that we are “one of the safe ones” versus a stereotype that some genitals are “evil” based on trauma and fear. It is not even possible to know for sure what genitalia anyone has even if they are trans, because some people go through surgeries, and some people are intersex. I wish people well that have struggles to get through but it is not the responsibility of trans people to coddle that. Thank you for your understanding of this edit. ]
If you define your sexuality by a genital preference over the sincere love of certain gender(s) or lack thereof, that might be a personal problem one has to overcome for the betterment of society and better treatment of trans people in your community.
If you only want to date cis people with the same genitalia as you, nobody is stopping you, but also, nobody is kidding themselves by believing that as being trans inclusive in your actions. Don’t claim to be an ally if you can’t even see us as the gender we are for whatever reasoning.
There is no such thing as a “threatening kind of genitalia” and there is no one specific “evil genitalia” either. Genitalia does not determine what kind of person you are inside or how you act.
Commit to trans acceptance and celebration by unpacking your idea of why you associate gender with genitalia, in any way you possibly do. Think hard. Pay attention to yourself and others. We can’t continue to leave trans people as a footnote. They must be centered, protected, and respected within our worldview and what we teach to people.
I ask of you to stand with trans people today and in positive ways to define sexuality, far way from “genital aversion” definitions. We owe trans people all the help we can give to feel normalized in this world, because we already should be. Trans people have been here all along and are included in your lesbianism or gayness, whether you see us or not.
Lesbians can love women and nonbinary people of all shapes and sizes, or genitalia configurations. Gays can love men and nonbinary people of all shapes and sizes, or genitalia configuration. And so on, for straight people, too. Cis people must include trans people within their framing of the world lest they be inaccurate and disrespectful to reality.
Trans people exist in all your categories whether or not you like it or want to include us. This isn’t an ‘opinion’ thing, but a mere fact. I stand by this.
[Author’s Note: Thank you for reading my first thoughts piece on trans inclusion and trans stuff in general. Bear with it as this one was a little ranty and didn’t have an outline or anything. Just had to get the feelings out. Cheers.]