One of my biggest issues with transgender activism is the way activists attempt to control other people’s sexual preferences. There is a obvious problem that will occur for most transpeople when it comes to sexual relationships. To put it bluntly, they likely will not have the sex organs their potential partners find arousing. Some transpeople take offense to this rejection, arguing that some women have penises and some men have vaginas.
This is biologically inaccurate. The scientific method we use to determine sex is based on our chromosome patterns and how humans as a species reproduce. Our genitals are what indicate externally that we are a dimorphic, i.e. two-sex, species. Males, precluding some genetic abnormality, have testes and penises. Females have ovaries, uteruses, and vaginas. This may not fit with the political arguments made by the transcommunity, however, it is biologically accurate.
As a result of this biology, most people will prefer one of the sexes and expect that sex to possess the corresponding sex organs. It is not biased to assume this anymore than it is biased to assume humans would prefer another human as a sexual partner.
Yet Riley Dennis argues that a person wanting a woman with a vagina is “anti-trans”. Dennis created a video, however, below is a transcript. Dennis starts by playing word games:
Recently on the Internet, there’s been a lot of discussion around “genital preferences” and transphobia. In this video, I’m going to use the word cissexism instead of transphobia, but they’re really similar words. At its most basic, cissexism means prejudice or discrimination against transgender people.
That is fair enough. However, the question here is whether it is discrimination to refuse to have sex with someone you do not find sexually attractive. Let us use a touchy example to illustrate this point. If a 12-year-old boy wants to have sex with an adult and the adult refuses because they are not sexually attracted to barely pubescent people, is that ageism? Is it racist not to find people of a certain race sexually attract Do we have the right to decide with whom we have sex?
Dennis appears to argue that we do not:
1. ‘You’re Being Homophobic!’
In this argument, I often get accused of homophobia, lesbophobia, or lesbian erasure by lesbians who believe that I’m trying to change their sexual orientation or identity. They say that my language sounds a lot like a dude who tried to turn them straight or like conversion therapy.
Those responses are rooted in cissexism.
This is because I’m not telling lesbians that they can’t be lesbians. If you’re a woman who only likes women, go ahead, identify as a lesbian!
How kind of Dennis to allow lesbians to identify as what they are. The flaw in Dennis’s argument is this:
But some women have penises.
No, they do not. Again, the method we use to understand our species and our very biology makes it clear that women do not have penises. This may be an uncomfortable point, yet that does not make it invalid.
And if the fact that some lesbians might be attracted to those women offends you, it’s because you don’t think trans women are real women.
Biologically, transwomen are not women. Their “realness” is created via surgery and hormone therapy. Without either, most transwomen would not appear female at all regardless of how they present themselves. While some people may find that argument biased or bigoted, it is grounded in science. To be female one must have the corresponding genetic structure. Making one’s outward appearance look female does not make one a woman anymore than tanning one’s skin and curling one’s hair makes someone African.
That’s because these accusations of homophobia make it sound like I’m trying to convince lesbians to like men, but I’m not.
Technically speaking, that is what Dennis is doing. Transwomen are biologically male, which is why they have penises. Telling someone who is attracted to female genitalia to like male genitalia essentially tells them to like men.
Dennis tries to get around this by stating:
I’m trying to show that preferences for women with vaginas over women with penises might be partially informed by the influence of a cissexist society.
Yet Dennis never explains what this influence might be. The most logical explanation is that society has convinced people that one’s genitals have nothing to do with one’s sex. If that were the case, why would so many transpeople take hormones to cause their bodies to change to match the opposite sex?
Likewise, would Dennis’s non-explanation not redefine homosexuality? If homosexuality is defined as attraction to the same sex, which would include one’s genitals, yet one’s genitals apparently have nothing to do with one’s sex, what would make a person homosexual? What would they be attracted to? If it is merely behavior or general characteristics, then should lesbians not find effeminate men attractive?
2. ‘You’re Upholding Rape Culture’
This is honestly the worst response that I’ve heard and probably the most cissexist one.
That’s because trans women have a long history of being accused of being rapists by cis women.
That is not the history with which I am familiar. My understanding is that transwomen are accused of tricking and attempting to rape men. The typical issue between transwomen and women is that men pretending to be be transwomen will exploit society’s tolerance to gain access to female-only areas.
Suggesting that trans women are rapists for wanting to be fully recognized as women is extremely harmful.
Who made that suggestion? It seems quite the accusation to make without evidence.
And I should note that I’m not saying you have to do anything without consent. I’m a big of fan of affirmative consent, and you should never feel pressured to have sex with somebody.
Except that is what Dennis is doing. Dennis is arguing that people – – straight, gay, and bisexual – – should have sex with people they would not otherwise have sex with because refusing to do so is “cissexism”.
This is not saying, “You have to have sex with a trans woman, or you’re cissexist.” It’s saying that you should examine the societal influences on your preferences.
Why? If it is not biased to refuse to have sex with a transwoman, why should anyone question the reasons for that disinterested? Implicit in Dennis’s statement is the argument “do it or you’re a bigot.”
3. ‘I’m Allowed to Have My Preferences!’
Technically, you’re right. You’re allowed to have your preferences, and you don’t have to change anything. But[…]
There is no “but”. Either one can have preferences or one cannot.
Like, you’re allowed to have a lot of things – you’re allowed to have prejudice towards trans people, but that doesn’t mean you should.
That is not comparable to a sexual preference. To use the prior child example, a person can enjoy the company of a 12-year-old boy while never finding him sexually attractive. It is not a prejudice not to want to have sex with him anymore than it would be a prejudice for him to prefer someone closer to his age.
So if we look a little deeper into this issue, there’s the possibility of your genital preferences being at least somewhat partially informed by growing up in a cissexist society.
Dennis again fails to explain what this influence is and how it affects people. Part of the reason for this failure may be due to ideology. Many people positing political ideologies present unsubstantiated positions as facts, and keep repeating them to give the impression that their opinions are backed by evidence.
The other reason is that Dennis likely does not have an explanation. Dennis appears to presents what sounds good and leaves the audience to make sense of it.
There’s also the fact that a preference is different than saying you would never do something.
In other words, “Lesbians, how do you know you don’t like having sex with men if you’ve never tried it?”
Like, having a preference for tall girls is fine, but refusing to date anyone under 5’7″ is ridiculous.
No, it is not. A person could have a variety of reasons for only wanting to date women of a certain height, including if the person is tall and wants someone closer to their height.
But I’m interested in having a conversation about labels and implicit bias and trans-inclusive language. Simply saying “It’s my preference, end of discussion” is a good way of sidelining all of those issues and, instead, centering the feelings of cis people in a discussion that’s about trans people.
When it comes to relationships and intimacy, a person’s preferences take precedence over one’s desire for political conversation. You simply do not get to decide that the feelings of transpeople outweigh a person’s right to decide with whom they will have sex.
4. ‘I Have a Trans Friend Who Says This Is Okay’
People love their tokens. I’ve done an entire video on moral licensing and why this is a terrible defense, but in summary, you’ll always be able to find trans people to back up your cissexist views.
Likewise, you will always find transpeople to oppose “cissexist” views. That does not make people like Dennis right, although it does essentially render Dennis’s entire video pointless.
5. ‘I’m Triggered by Penises Because of Past Sexual Trauma’
That’s completely understandable. I’ve never said that anyone should have to have sex with someone with a penis if they don’t want to.
No, Dennis merely implied that the refusal to have sex with transwomen makes one bigoted.
As a side note, I have never heard this argument before. I assume this may come from lesbians who claim they were raped by males, but I cannot be certain.
And the last thing I want to say about this is that if you’d rather not have sex with a woman who has a penis, maybe just don’t make such a huge deal of it. Trans women are often afraid of not being found attractive or desirable after coming out, and you’re not helping.
If you really want to be an ally to trans people, you could just not talk about it. And by that, I’m not trying to censor you, okay, so don’t pretend this is censorship. You have the freedom to say whatever you want – I’m just asking you to consider if it’s necessary to say those things when they reflect harmful or violent rhetoric.
No, Dennis is not trying to censor anyone. Dennis is only trying to equate stating that one does not want to have sex with a transwomen with violence, which would prompt most people to keep their mouths shut.
Because if you have an opinion that you know is only gonna make people feel bad about themselves, why constantly share it with the world?
Yes, why let people know who you want to have sex with. You do not find someone attractive who keeps approaching you? Keep your mouth shut.
You do not find certain types of people attractive? Do not let anyone know.
Do your sexual preferences hurt other people’s feelings? Keep them to yourself. Did you get that gay people? Stop constantly sharing your opinion about sex. It makes religious people feel bad.
It’s fine to not find people attractive, but it’s mean to constantly yell about how unattractive you find those people, especially when those people are oppressed.
Who is constantly yelling about how they find transwomen unattractive? What does anyone’s “oppression” have to do with finding someone attractive?
For another imperfect analogy, it’d be like if you weren’t attracted to girls with short hair.
That would fine, but you probably wouldn’t write articles and make videos defending why it’s okay for you to not like girls with short hair.
Perhaps, unless there were a number of short-haired girls complaining that people refusing to date them and accusing those people of being bigots. Then one might be more inclined to make such videos.
Of course, the analogy is absurd because most people can simply grow out their hair. The better analogy would be telling a gay person to have sex with the opposite sex or the reverse. It would be ridiculous and insulting to tell someone they had to keep quiet about being straight or that their preference for members of the same sex did not mean they would never have sex with a member of the opposite sex.
Those are illogical arguments based purely in trying to control someone’s sex life. It is much worse in this situation as the goal is to dictate who people should find attractive.
The unfortunate reality for most transpeople is that the average person will not want to have sex with them should they discover the person is trans. This is not born out of hate or fear so much as it is a visceral reaction to something people find bizarre. One can argue that people could be more understanding, yet that would not change the typical reaction.
Perhaps this is unfair to transpeople. We can sympathize with their situation, however, we cannot tell people who they should have sex with or try to shame or guilt them into sexual encounters. As biased as it may seem, people have the right to refuse to have sex with whomever they want for whatever reason. We can disagree with their reasons, yet we cannot vilify them for preferring one set of sex organs to another.