Today, I have read yet another article in a mainstream press which suggests that lesbian women who refuse to have sex with pre-op trans women are bigots. There is quite a lot that I find problematic in this article including the continuing refusal to acknowledge that there are a number of transwomen in prisons who transitioned after incarceration for rape and other forms of violence against women and girls. It is simply ridiculous to pretend that Synthia China Blast is in prison simply for being Trans as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project did last year. Blast is in prison for the rape and murder of 13 year old Ebony Nicole Williams. There are Trans who are in prison for using illegal substances or engaging in sex work and no one should be in prison for this. It is very clear that those who end up in the prison, regardless of whether or not they are Trans, do so because they are not white, middle class, heterosexual men. Poverty, racism, homophobia, classism etc are the reasons that the prison-industrial complex exists. This is not to say that there are not classes of prisoners who need to be in prison for the safety of the rest of society – a group that includes rapists, but social problems are not solved with mass incarceration. They are solved by ending poverty.
What really struck me reading this particular article is how frequently I have seen the issue of lesbian women who do not want to have pre-op transwomen as sexual partners in the press and that I have never seen a similar article aimed at heterosexual women about having transmen as partners. I’ve never seen one calling gay men bigoted for refusing to have sex with transmen. And, I have certainly NEVER seen a similar article exhorting heterosexual men to have transwomen as partners.
Why is it that every single one of these letters focuses on lesbian women? Why are we not talking about the fact that many transwomen have not had surgery. Is it really bigotry for a women who is a lesbian to refuse to have sex with someone who has a penis – regardless of how that person identifies? If it is bigotry, then where are the articles labelling heterosexual men bigots for refusing to have sex with pre-op transwomen? Why aren’t there calls to insist that heterosexual pornography – like Playboy – feature the bodies of transwomen who have not had surgery like there is with lesbian porn?
We need to have an honest discussion about these questions. And, calling people bigots does not change the fact that there is a clear issue of lesbophobia inherent in these articles. If the only group of people being labelled bigots is lesbian women, we need to ask ourselves why lesbian women are considered a completely different category of human to heterosexual men and women and gay men.