I’m sort of surprised the BBC published this story. It’s hard to imagine it being published by any major outlet here in the US because it’s very much an obstacle to the kind of trans inclusiveness that activists say is essential. I don’t usually give trigger-warnings but in this case the topic of discussion is sort of unavoidably graphic, so consider yourself warned.
The basic gist of the story is that some lesbian women, how many is unclear, are being socially pressured by peers and activists to accept the possibility of intimate relationships with trans women. The argument is pretty simple: Trans women are women and therefore no one should discriminate against them in any way. And that’s true whether or not the trans women haven’t had surgery and, to be blunt about it, still have a penis.
Jennie is a lesbian woman. She says she is only sexually attracted to women who are biologically female and have vaginas. She therefore only has sex and relationships with women who are biologically female.
Jennie doesn’t think this should be controversial, but not everyone agrees. She has been described as transphobic, a genital fetishist, a pervert and a “terf” – a trans exclusionary radical feminist.
Right up front, the author says she had trouble getting people to talk about this issue. She also made clear that not everyone agrees what is the right thing here. Even among trans women, it seems to be a minority who are vocal about this. But she did eventually find some people who’d had bad experiences. For instance, 24-year-old Amy whose girlfriend wanted to have a threesome with a trans woman. Amy said no.
“I know there is zero possibility for me to be attracted to this person,” said Amy, who lives in the south west of England and works in a small print and design studio.
“I can hear their male vocal cords. I can see their male jawline. I know, under their clothes, there is male genitalia. These are physical realities, that, as a woman who likes women, you can’t just ignore.”
Amy and her girlfriend split up but only after the girlfriend claimed her views were “extremist propaganda and inciting violence towards the trans community.” Another lesbian woman, 26-year-old Chloe, says she was pressured into having sex with a trans woman and felt bad for hating it.
“I felt very bad for hating every moment, because the idea is we are attracted to gender rather than sex, and I did not feel that, and I felt bad for feeling like that,” she said.
Ashamed and embarrassed, she decided not to tell anyone.
“The language at the time was very much ‘trans women are women, they are always women, lesbians should date them’. And I was like, that’s the reason I rejected this person. Does that make me bad? Am I not going to be allowed to be in the LGBT community anymore? Am I going to face repercussions for that instead?’ So I didn’t actually tell anyone.”
One group sent out a questionnaire and received 80 responses from women who’d had similar experiences:
“Young women feel pressured to sleep with trans women ‘to prove I am not a terf’.”
One woman reported being targeted in an online group. “I was told that homosexuality doesn’t exist and I owed it to my trans sisters to unlearn my ‘genital confusion’ so I can enjoy letting them penetrate me,” she wrote.
There were also some reported instances, where coercion and force was involved, i.e. rape.
Another reported a trans woman physically forcing her to have sex after they went on a date.
“[They] threatened to out me as a terf and risk my job if I refused to sleep with [them],” she wrote. “I was too young to argue and had been brainwashed by queer theory so [they were] a ‘woman’ even if every fibre of my being was screaming throughout so I agreed to go home with [them]. [They] used physical force when I changed my mind upon seeing [their] penis and raped me.”
You get the idea. In some circles, dating preferences are now considered transphobic. Ideologically, you can see how this makes sense. The whole premise of trans activism is that trans women should be welcome in any and all spaces where women are welcome. Take that to its logical, more intimate, conclusion and that includes the bodies of lesbians. And if you disagree with that idea, it’s because you’re a TERF. The story includes a few blurred out tweets from people saying as much.
The story quotes Ani O’Brien, a New Zealand lesbian who started a group called Speak Up for Women. O’Brien says this very woke approach is really just a regression to a very old trope about lesbians: “What we are seeing is a regression where once again young lesbians are being told ‘How do you know you don’t like d**k if you haven’t tried it?'”
You have a situation where ideology and reality are at odds and I don’t see any possible solution to this conundrum. The activists are not going to back away from the idea that lesbians who refuse to date trans women are TERFs and I suspect most lesbians aren’t going to suddenly agree that they like dating trans women with male genitals.
Of course my own view is that the ideology is the problem. People who are attracted to same or opposite sex partners have the right to exclude someone whose genitals don’t match that specific attraction. In fact, they have the right to exclude anyone for any reason.
Will some feelings be hurt? Yes, of course! Millions of people’s feelings are hurt daily when the man or woman of their dreams isn’t attracted to them. It’s a tragedy that Pamela Anderson never dropped everything to find me. I’m sure we’d hit it off. Instead she wound up with a serious of wealthy, good looking rock stars and there was nothing I could do about it.
I’m being silly (and picking on Anderson who it’s fair to say gets more than her share of unwanted attention) but hopefully you get my point. No one is obligated to sleep with someone they aren’t attracted to. Pressuring people into sexual relationships they aren’t comfortable with is a very bad idea, even if you’re doing it for the greater good of trans inclusion. I’m sure there will be some people who are attracted to trans women and that’s great but it’s not going to be every straight man or every lesbian. Sorry but that’s just not how this works.