Did you know that it is transphobic to choose not to date a transgender person? Indeed it is. According to a recent study, “cisgender” people discriminate against transgender community by refusing to date or have sex with them:
Two Canadian researchers recently asked almost 1000 cisgender folks if they would date a trans person in a new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. This is the first study to ever attempt to quantify the extent of trans discrimination when it comes to romantic and sexual relationships.
958 participants (all but seven cisgender, ranging in age from 18 to 81, with an average age of 26) were asked to indicate which genders they would consider dating. The options included cisgender man, cisgender woman, trans man, trans woman, or genderqueer, and participants could select as many genders as they wanted.
Only 12% of all participants selected “trans woman” and/or “trans man.”
Did anyone need a study to determine that finding? It should be obvious, given the rarity of transgender people, that only a small portion of the population would want to pursue romantic or sexual relationships with them.
What is interesting is that people’s willingness to engage in relationships with transgender people tended to match the non-trans person’s sexual preferences:
Virtually all heterosexuals excluded trans folks from their dating pool: only 1.8% of straight women and 3.3% of straight men chose a trans person of either binary gender.
How unsurprising. Why would anyone assume that straight people would be interested in dating those they likely perceive as being members of the same sex?
It is interesting that men appeared to be more open to dating transgender people. The study provides some explanation for this, which we will see later. The article continues:
But most non-heterosexuals weren’t down for dating a trans person either, with only 11.5% of gay men and 29% of lesbians being trans-inclusive in their dating preferences.
Again, how unsurprising, although it is curious that lesbians are more open to dating transgender people. The article does not say whether the study found a reason for this.
Moving on, in yet another unsurprising finding, it appears that “non-binary” people were the most open to dating transgender people:
Bisexual/queer/nonbinary participants (these were all combined into one group) were most open to having a trans partner, but even among them, almost half (48%) did not select either ‘trans man’ or ‘trans woman.’
Of the seven participants who themselves identified as transgender or nonbinary, 89% were willing to date another trans person.
What we can gather from these findings is that people’s sexual preferences line up to what we know about the biology of human sexuality. Both straight and gay people appear to prefer people who biologically match their preferred sex. It is trickier know what happens with bisexuals as the study lumped them in with “non-binary” and “queer” people, two terms that at best have an amorphous meaning. We might assume, however, that the standard shown among gay and straight people would apply with bisexual people, i.e. that bisexuals prefer people who biologically match their sexual preferences.
Sex is a very personal act, and few people are willing to do it with someone they do not find sexually attractive. That most people appear sexually disinterested in transgender people is unfortunate for the trans community, yet there is little that can be done about this. People are allowed to decide who they will date or have sex with. One cannot make people change their preferences, and certainly not with loaded statements like this:
Romantic relationships are one of the most important sources of social support for adults. The fact that most cis people would not consider trans people as potential dating partners is yet another serious risk factor for increased psychological and physical health problems among the trans population.
This is a ludicrous appeal to emotion. There are no physical health problems one would develop because most people will not have sex with you. The psychological problems are a legitimate concern, however, much like the situation with involuntarily celibate men, there is nothing one can do short of forcing people to have sex with them, which is not an option.
The disturbing part about the above argument is the implication that the desires of transgender people trump the desire of others. This is indeed one of the major concerns people share about normalizing gender dysphoria. People fear that their “no” will not be respected, that their refusal to have sex with a transgender person will be ignored.
The tone of the article suggests that this would be the case. One simply cannot refuse to date or have sex with a transgender person. The only option is to do what the transgender person wants or you are a transphobic bigot.
Back to the study, there was another interesting finding:
Surprisingly, among the 127 participants open to dating a trans person, almost half selected a trans person of a gender incongruent with their stated sexual orientation.
Correction: what the study shows is that people tend to select a transgender person whose biological sex matches the non-trans person’s sexual preference:
For example, 50% of the trans-inclusive straight women and 28% of the trans-inclusive gay men were willing to date a trans woman, even though one wouldn’t expect either straight women or gay men to be attracted to women.
That is because they are not. They are attracted to men, and since transwomen are biologically male, it makes sense that straight women and gay men would find them attractive. The article does not mention whether the study goes further into the preferences. It would interesting to know if these percentages hold up if the transwoman fully transitioned.
Similarly, 50% of trans-inclusive straight men and 69% of trans-inclusive lesbians said they’d date a trans man, even though both groups are presumably only attracted to women.
Again, they are only attracted to women. Transmen are biologically female, so it makes sense that straight men and lesbians would find them attractive.
It is worth noting that gay men appear to have a higher preference for those matching their sexual preference than lesbians. This may suggest that gay men place a higher value on explicit male characteristics, such as deep voices, muscles, and body hair. Transmen would have those features, so it makes sense that gay men would prefer transmen over transwomen.
And 33% of the trans-inclusive bisexual/queer participants said they would only date a trans person of one gender but not the other, even though one may expect this group to be attracted to multiple genders.
This assumption ignores that while someone may be attracted to both sexes, they may prefer one sex over the other. The irony of this blind assumption should not be lost.
The article goes on:
Digging even deeper into the choices of cis folks willing to date trans people, an interesting pattern of discrimination against trans women in particular emerged among those who would be expected to be attracted to women: 28% of trans-inclusive bisexual/queer/nonbinary folks and 38% of trans-inclusive lesbians said they wouldn’t date a trans woman — only a trans man. There was no similar discrimination against trans men among those expected to be attracted to men: 0% of trans-inclusive gay men and only 5% of trans-inclusive bisexual/queer/nonbinary folks excluded trans men from their dating pool.
This is not evidence of a pattern of discrimination. It is evidence of preference, possibly driven by their perceptions about transwomen being women, and possibly on their preference for certain body parts that transwomen would not have.
Of course, that would be the logical conclusion to draw. The politically-charged, emotionally-driven conclusion would be:
The high rates of trans exclusion from potential dating pools are undoubtedly due in part to cisnormativity, cissexism, and transphobia — all of which lead to lack of knowledge about transgender people and their bodies, discomfort with these unknowns, and fear of being discriminated against by proxy of one’s romantic partner.
Let us take this piece by piece as there is a great deal of stupid in that statement. “Cisnormativity” is the natural state of every mammalian species on this planet, particularly primates. The vast majority of people do not experience gender dysphoria. That is the normal biological state of the human species. To attach any kind of “systematic bias” to what is the biological norm borders on idiotic.
Regarding the “cissexism” the author mentions, there is already a word to describe this: preference. To call it an “ism” to prefer a particular type of person over another denies people’s innate preferences. They no more have control over these preferences than a transgender person can control whether they feel they are in the wrong body.
As for “transphobia,” it is certainly possible that people’s fear a transgender person’s condition may cause them to avoid dating or having sex with said person, however, it seems more likely that the person’s sexual preferences would drive their decision.
The oddity of author’s conclusion is that it completely ignores the predominant view about sexual orientation, specifically that it is biologically innate, something one cannot change. Instead, the author, like many who push this particular narrative, assumes that a person merely stating that they are now a different sex should make people find that person to be a potential partner.
A person cannot simply state that he is now female and expect a straight man or lesbian to find him attractive. Even should this man alter his body to appear female, adopt female characteristics and behaviors, that still does not mean that once the straight man or lesbian discovers that the transwoman was born a man that they would pursue a relationship.
It is vital to understand this because these are things that matter when it comes to relationships. To assume that these are merely social norms ignores what decades of research shows us. This is made all the more bizarre considering that the very people pushing this idea also argue that sexual orientation is a biological reality.
The author does eventually on to state:
It is also possible that at least some of the trans exclusion is due to the fact that for some people, sexual orientation might be not (just) about a partner’s gender identity, but attraction to specific body types and/or judgment of reproductive capabilities.
How generous of the author to allow that possibility after labeling people bigots first.
Of course, this is just one study with a non-representative sample […]so more research is needed to understand the extent of this form of trans exclusion and the reasons driving it.
But despite the limitations, these results clearly indicate that although the visibility of transgender people is on the rise, we still have a long way to go to reach trans equality.
No, it does not. What it indicates is that people’s preferences are not malleable and appear to be biologically motivated. If a person is attracted to women, it is not simply enough for the other person to look female; they must be biologically female. The same appears to apply with those attracted to men.
While this is not what many transgender people may want to hear, it does appear to be how people’s sexual preferences work. How we move forward is to teach transgender people to accept that they are going to have a very small dating people to choose from. This is not necessarily the result of hatred, fear, or confusion. It is merely people’s innate preferences, which should be respected just as much as transgender people want their identities respected.
One cannot demand that people recognize one’s innate characteristics while ignoring those of others.