“Does sexual attraction to specific body parts make you transphobic?”
That was the title of a recent piece on Out Magazine. (Full disclosure: I have no answers to this question, only puzzled blinks, tactful changes of subject, and a deep sense of discomfort.)
The article concerned the plight of lesbian YouTuber Arielle Scarcella, who claims, “I’ve been told I’m transphobic because I like boobs and vaginas and not penises.” Scarcella bravely sallies forth to defend this threat to her lesbian identity—she will not have sex with trans women! At least, not trans women who don't have $40,000 dollars to spend on out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Excuse me, I mean, “a vagina.”
Whether or not trans women are clamoring for sex with Arielle Scarcella remains to be seen. Nonetheless, she delivers her monologue as if surrounded by trans women desperate for a piece of her. Predators straight from a trans-exclusionary radical feminist’s nightmare.
For those of you following along at home, the notion of trans women as predators out to get cisgender lesbians comes from trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF), the same ideology whose adherents are currently organizing with straight evangelicals to push trans people out of public accommodations.
“As someone who is sexually attracted to the female anatomy, [Scarcella] wouldn’t have sex with someone who has a penis, and she doesn’t think anyone should feel coerced into doing so if they’re uncomfortable with it,” writes Out’s Glenn Garner.
There is not a sensible trans person on Earth who thinks anyone should be coerced into sex they don’t want to have. Are there trans people who question the idea that it’s a value neutral “preference” to say you’ll never ever fuck a guy with a pussy or a girl with a dick? Of course there are—just as there are cis people who question whether its "neutral" to claim you’ll never ever fuck an Asian, or a blind guy, or someone who’s fat.
Are these critiques sexual coercion? Of course not. To say that trans women critique desirability politics to coerce cis women into sex is harmful transmisogynistic nonsense.
Does sexual attraction to specific body parts make you transphobic? This question is a red herring. It’s mostly an excuse to discuss trans bodies in the most dehumanizing of terms, as when Scarcella explains to Out, “What I actually said was I wouldn’t have sex with one pre-op.” I am far more fascinated by the fantasy world Scarcella lives in, where people decide who to have sex with based on foreknowledge of genitals and hormone regimens. This particular delusion is only possible if one conceives of trans people as collections of meat and medical procedures. That Out and its readership is comfortable accepting the terms of this question as they are strikes me as deeply sad.
In my life as a cockless trans homo, if I find myself wanting to have sex with a cis homo, it does not matter what that cis homo might say in the abstract about vaginas. It matters whether or not he wants to have sex with me—a human person and an individual. What do we think about when we decide who to have sex with? Is he hairy, is she taller than I am, can I overlook how much he liked La La Land? An endless constellation.
Of course size and variety of genitals play in. But to read that Out article, you’d think trans people were excluded from the complexity of cruising and flirtation. We should just fill out a survey at the bar door. We could write down our pronouns, HRT start dates, and surgical status. (I am imagining tasteful cardstock and lanyards, so we could wear the information around our necks.)
Gay trans people are already here. Like fat gays, black gays, Asian gays, poz gays, disabled gays, no matter how much you debate the validity of our bodies, we are already your sidepieces, your hot bartenders, your boyfriends, and your regular “You up?” texts. If you don’t want to have sex with us, I have good news: you don't have to. In fact, trans people get a say in who we have sex with, believe it or not, and it probably isn't you.
And if you want to fuck someone until you find out their genitals don’t match yours, that isn’t because you’re gay. It’s because you won’t fuck trans people—even when you kinda want to. Now, why is that, I wonder? Welcome to the new age! You have some hard questions to answer.