Getting With Girls Like Us: A Radical Guide to Dating Trans* Women for Cis Women
Fetishizing Trans Women
Again I’d like to think this goes without saying, but sadly I see it happen plenty. Look, I get that drawing the boundary between healthy, affectionate sexual curiosity and fetishization might not always be an exact science (and it might be a little different with different women). Personally I think I’m pretty relaxed and I can work with you as long as it doesn’t all reduce down to one thing (*cough*). However, if you’re on a date with a trans woman and your thoughts about her body are constantly distracting you from the conversation, just stop yourself and think: what if I was interacting with a guy and he kept having these kinds of thoughts about my body instead of listening to what I was saying? Would I feel comfortable around him?
Don’t reduce us to our genitals
Obviously this follows pretty strongly from the don’t-fetishize-us thing. A big part of this is what should be a pretty obvious hard rule: don’t put us on the spot with questions about our genitals.
Personally, I happen to be pretty open about this stuff (you might even notice a subtle dick joke appears in the previous sentence), but even if you know something about my body from reading one of my articles, that doesn’t make it cool to randomly bring my junk into the conversation if you meet me in real life.
Just the same, if you meet a trans woman who is a sex worker or if you’ve seen pornography in which a trans woman appears, that doesn’t give you some special right to ask her questions about her body anymore than it would if you met a cis woman who was involved in sex work.
Then there is the other side of the coin: some cis women might have an issue or feel uncertain about hooking up with a woman who has different genitalia than her own. First of all, you should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do or that you’re even unsure about. If you aren’t comfortable or you just aren’t into it, say no.
That having been said, if genitalia is the one and only reason for not being into someone, I do think it is worth thinking through that. Responding to one of the claims that some have made, I would emphatically state that nobody’s physical body is a representation of patriarchy. Such a statement is not only somewhat cruel to inflict on someone who herself is oppressed by patriarchy, it is also pretty defeatist from a feminist perspective (if we were really to buy into the idea that penises are the source of patriarchy, rather than socially constructed male privilege, aren’t we pretty much saying that patriarchy is a permanent fixture of human society? Eek).
Talk With Us
Beyond all these more detailed considerations, another key point is simply communication. Of course there are a myriad of situations that could arise that I’ve never even thought of, but if two people really care about developing a positive friendship or intimate relationship (whether for one evening or a committed partnership) then they will be willing to sit down together and talk through these things.
I have written previously about some of the alienation I have experienced as a trans woman dating in the queer women’s community. Now, I want to emphasize here again that no one is obligated to touch a woman’s penis if they aren’t into that. However it’s also important to emphasize:
1) Not every trans woman has a penis.
2) No general means exist to distinguish trans women from cis women.
The implications of these two points together are that statements such as “I am attracted to cis women but not trans women” simply do not make sense and are rooted in social prejudice.
Awesome! Glad we made it this far. I would say, “now comes the fun part,” but actually the whole process of getting to know one another should be fun. And the fact is that respecting your potential partner and vice versa is really sexy, and it’s actually not that hard… err, difficult, to do.
At this point, again, the key is communication. There are trans women who like being touched in certain places or in certain ways, but not in others, just as a similar statement applies for many cis women. Those boundaries must be respected throughout by everyone involved. The key is to keep the channels of communication open throughout, and to rely on active consent as the model for sexual intimacy at every moment.
Underlining all of this of course is the opportunity for new experiences of friendship, solidarity and more.