Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Seeking quotes from queer women who partner with trans women and/or cis men

As a bisexual femme-identified trans woman, I have long been interested in (and concerned by) how the borders of queer women’s communities are policed - where certain people, actions and ways of being are seen as legitimately queer while others are not.

In my own community, I have found two different recurring complaints along these lines that I wish to chronicle for an essay I am working on:

1) despite the fact that T is supposedly included in LGBT, many queer women find that when they are dating/partnered to a trans woman, their queer credentials suddenly become questioned or are seen as suspect in a way that is not the case when queer women date/partner with trans men.

2) despite the fact that B is supposedly included in LGBT, many queer women find that when they are dating/partnered to a cis man, their queer credentials suddenly become questioned or are seen as suspect in a way that is not the case when queer women date/partner with trans men.

(*see further notes of clarification below)

If you have any personal anecdotes/experiences/stories that speak to either of these two scenarios, I would greatly appreciate it if you could share your quotes with me.

For each scenario that you wish to share, please write a brief paragraph or two describing your experiences (btw, you may submit more than one scenario/paragraph). Depending on how many quotes I receive, I hope to 1) compile all the quotes into a single blog post that will appear on my blog (http://juliaserano.blogspot.com), and 2) potentially excerpt your quote in my future writings (e.g., in my next my book and/or articles that appear elsewhere).

For those interested, please send your quotes to me at: hi at juliaserano dot com. I can assure you that YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED OR SHARED WITH ANYONE. Please paste the text into the body of the email (no attachments please). In the email, please also include a statement along the following lines: “I certify that all of the provided information is true to the best of my knowledge, and I give Julia Serano permission to post these quotes on her website and to allow her to excerpt them in her future writings.”

Feel free to include any other contextual information that you feel is necessary to accurately convey what happened. Also, keep in mind that other people may eventually be reading these quotes, so be sure to omit any unimportant info that you feel might place your (or anyone else’s) anonymity in jeopardy (e.g., where you live or work, people’s names, etc.). Also, I will not be editing these quotes at all (except possibly for length), so you might want to double-check for spelling mistakes and typos.

For the record, this work is not the part of any kind of “research project.” I am approaching this subject as both a queer/bi/trans activist and as a journalist who wants to chronicle what is deemed “queer” (or “not queer”) within contemporary queer women’s communities.

Feel free to cross-post this request on any LGBTQ-focused websites/blogs/email lists at your discretion. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at the email address mentioned above.

Thanks in advance!

P.S., for the record, I am *not* claiming or insinuating that queer women who date/partner with trans men do not receive any flak within queer women’s communities for their partner choices. I am merely saying that their partner choices tend to be significantly more accepted in queer women’s circles than queer women who partner with trans women or cis men.

P.S.S., I also want to clarify that I am certainly *not* by any means insinuating that dating a trans woman = dating a cis man. Trans women are women, and cis men are men. I am interested in both of these cases, not because they are equivalent, but because they reveal ways in which B and T inclusion in queer women’s communities is highly conditional.

P.S.S.S., finally, I want to stress that when I say “queer women,” I am talking about people who navigate their way through the world as women (whether cis or trans), and who are queer-identified in some way (e.g., lesbian, bisexual, dyke, pansexual, queer, polysexual, and potentially many other queer identities not explicitly listed here).


  1. You posted a blog a while back about the TS/TG controversy, and I tried to post on that blog (before the conversation got Giant-Sized), but I lost the post to cyber-space gremlins. I would really love to have a conversation sometime with you about how you perceive/your experiences with the (alleged) acceptance of trans-men/trans relationships within circles of queer women. Your experiences are completely different from anything I've experienced as a transman in lesbian circles, and I was (read as) a lesbian for over 25 years. I'm really interested to know if our different experiences are location-based or something 'other'. It's very interesting to me. I realize you're not saying, "Transmen are treated so amazingly well in lesbian circles"...I sooooooo realize that. And of course, I'm not saying your experiences aren't valid...I'm just saying, our experiences are so vastly different that I would seriously love to have a conversation with you about it sometime, because I soooooo very much admire your work. I have YET to see transmen accepted in lesbian communities UNLESS those transmen "act like" lesbians (please notice the bunny ears when I say, "act like"). I have my own theories on the 'acceptance' of transmen in queer women circles, and they differ vastly from your theories (ergo, why I would seriously love to discuss this with you sometime...it would be a fascinating conversation). I've officially added you to my "Seven People You'd Love To Invite To A Dinner Party" list.

  2. queer woman: so your partner is trans.
    me: yes, she transitioned a few years ago.
    queer woman: you mean he.
    me: no, i mean she.
    queer woman: i thought you said she transitioned.
    me: i did.
    queer woman: so you mean he.
    me: no, i mean she.


    queer woman: oh.

    (end of conversation)

  3. My experiences are maybe similar to helen's. In most queer circles I know, "trans" unexpressedly means "trans man". For example their is a professor who created the term "trans_dyke" to describe people on the butch/ftm boundary. That term wouldn't make sense for trans women, even if they are lesbian, because they would be nowhere inbetween genders, just identifying as females who like females.

    A lot of queer events over here are declared restricted to wlt*, meaning women, lesbians and trans* (all kinds of trans people). But people usually only think of trans men in that context. For example I was accepted into an flt* event as a trans woman, but was reminded that not everybody might feel comfortable with my genital configuration (it was an "intimate" event, so it wasn't inappropriate), which I don't think the trans men attending were reminded of (which could also be the case - not everybody likes scratchy beards for example).

    I know that trans men are not as welcome in lesbian circles as cis women, but especially in the more modern "queer" circles, people are much more comfortable with trans masculinity than with trans femininity.

  4. Hi Helen & anonymous & Dylan for the comments.

    Dylan, I think the situation can be geographical, and it is definitely generational (20- 30-something dykes are *way* more trans male friendly than 40- 50-something lesbians tend to be).

    But you hit the nail on the head when you said some trans guys can gain acceptance if they "act like" lesbians. Many somewhat do this - they stress that they do not identify as male, or lack penises, or are still dyke identified. and those folks definitely gain way more acceptance than trans men who outwardly/explicitly claim a male/man identity.

    But the "act like" card that you acknowledge exists for some trans men IS NOT EVEN ON THE TABLE FOR TRANS WOMEN. (sorry for yelling) Trans women can be butch or androgynous or tomboyish or dyke-ish in gender expression or politics or fashion, and we can be righteous feminists & queer activists, but we are still not seen as legitimate queer women and/or viable potential partners to the overwhelming majority of dykes/queer women.

    Finally, I can understand why a lesbian/dyke woman who prefers women over men might not be interested in being partnered with a trans man. Maybe trans men find this disappointing, but at least it does not invalidate their male identity. But when these same women do not want to have anything to do with trans women (socially or sexually) it sends a clear signal that they do not believe that we are legitimate women. This invalidates our identities and is inherently anti-trans on a level that is not necessarily true in the other direction.

    Anyway, thanks for your kind words - hopefully we can talk more at some point but right now I am racing to meet work & writing deadlines...best wishes, -j.

  5. "Finally, I can understand why a lesbian/dyke woman who prefers women over men might not be interested in being partnered with a trans man. Maybe trans men find this disappointing, but at least it does not invalidate their male identity. But when these same women do not want to have anything to do with trans women (socially or sexually) it sends a clear signal that they do not believe that we are legitimate women."

    This. When it comes to romantic partnering, I'm disinterested in men, even endogenously estrogenated ones who present as women because... y'know, it's easier sometimes to retain viewed-as-cis privilege.

  6. It's the first anonymous again :-).

    Some ideas:

    1. Trans men acceptance is really a generational thing: the older "queers" (who usually call themselves lesbians) often have a bigger problem with trans men, while they might actually accept post-op trans women. The younger ones, who usually call themselves queer often have no trouble with trans men, but trans woman are often discriminated against, often by way of not thinking about them.

    2. As far as romantic/sexual connections, I don't want to blame anyone for their preference. It's just there. Even though I am a trans woman myself, I can't really imagine myself being with a trans woman, and it is easier to imagine being with a trans men - even though I am usually attracted to women. This is not set in stone, just an impulse, but because of it, I can't blame cis women who feel the same way, even though it effects me negatively. But inbetween there are some queer women who have no trouble seeing me as a woman and I even had some good sexual experiences, so it's not the case with everybody.

  7. I am an 'older' queer (50) who identified as bi from age of 16. When I was younger, queer friends were fine with that label as long as I was with a woman, but when I showed up with a cis man there was an immediate frost. Not exactly unfriendly, but definitely felt I was no longer accepted as 'one of us'. Ended up being with a cis man for 15 years, had two kids. Never felt 'straight' but the longer I was with this one partner, the less people accepted me as queer. So... we eventually did split up, and my current partner is a woman, and suddenly everyone thinks that I've 'turned' queer...

  8. I'm one of the people who put the "B" in "LGBT." Most of the time, that "B" feels pretty invisible. Lately, there has been some movement locally, through the efforts of Dyke March Toronto and a visibility campaign put out by Rainbow Ontario & CAMH.

    As a self-identified lesbian, I marched and sang and protested, lived with a woman for 12 years, came out to family, friends, at work, everywhere I went. I felt a part of something special, something larger than myself, an emotional "home." When I eventually realized that I was actually bi, and told my lesbian and gay friends, they all said the right supportive things. But the invitations and phone calls stopped when I started dating a cis-man. Biphobic comments were common in the wider LG community. I stopped feeling welcome in the community to which I had devoted myself for so many years.

    The Toronto Bi Network saved my sanity, and I made friends for life, but I still felt alienated from the rest of the queer community. I questioned my own queer credibility when I wasn't actively dating a woman.

    Then I found the leather dyke community, and they really are accepting of a wide spectrum of gender expression and sexual orientation. It took me a while to get over my internalized crap about not being accepted, but I have come to realize that they really don't care.

    It's taken more than eight years for me to feel like I have a right to claim my place among the queers. And still, when I walk down Church Street, alone or with a cis-male partner (who is also queer, out at work and to his family), I/we feel invisible. Our work to challenge assumptions and fight homophobia goes unrecognized.

  9. I'm another invisible B woman in LGBT. I'm in my late 20s and have always been more attracted to women than to men, but through being in a mostly straight community my previous partners have all been cis-men. Although I have been attracted to cis-women, they have invariably been straight.

    My friends (queer and straight) are either aware that I'm bisexual and accept it, or are unaware and don't imagine for a second that I'm bisexual because I'm very happy with my cis-male partner and outwardly I appear to be straight. I have only received a few negative comments about my bisexuality - I've been questioned whether I could be truly bisexual if I've never had a female partner. This is like saying a straight girl could never know she's straight until she's slept with a boy... this would be an unacceptable question to ask of a straight person, but 'how do you know unless you've been there?' seems to be a perfectly valid question for queers, particular bisexuals who don't appear outwardly queer.

    I know that I'm bisexual and the important people in my life know that I'm bisexual, my current partner knows and is supportive - thankfully he is not one of the 'bi girls r totes hawt' boy brigade...but I wouldn't have been attracted to him if he was.

    I'm happy with this set-up. Part of me does wish that when I'm in the company of other LGBT people I would be seen as one of the group rather than as 'a friend of the group'.

    I wouldn't rule out being with a cis-woman, transman or transwoman, but I'm extremely happy with my cis-boyfriend and planning a future with him.

  10. I'm a mostly-closeted cis bi woman, and my partner is a totally closeted, pre-transition trans lesbian. (So everyone thinks I'm going out with a man).

    So I haven't experienced any of this (yet) but am pretty worried about it. Thank you caring about this.

  11. What I've observed as a 20 something cisgender dyke and the partner of a trans woman who is the love of my life mirrors what others have already said. The difference is mostly generational. There is a younger generation of 20 and 30 something queer and lesbian women who are more open to trans* identified people.

    The catch is, in these cliques "trans" is often almost entirely synonymous with "trans men". Trans women are usually ignored, and at worst made into the butt of jokes. But on the same note, trans men who want to mingle in these groups often have to "butch up" in order to fit in. Indeed, the objectification of trans men by queer women as a "super butch" fetish betrays a lack of understanding of trans identities in general. Many of these queer women are much more interested in trans as a political tool. The end result is, trans men are often seen as just another type of lesbian, especially at the intersection where male identified transmasculine individuals meet genderqueer/pangender identified transmasculine individuals.

    I don't know how many times I've had to correct other queer women when they learn my partner is trans. They invariably assume she's a trans man when it's the complete opposite. They then stand there looking confused as if I'd just told them I was in love with my dog :/

  12. I'm a trans woman partnered with a female bodied genderqueer person who is invariably read as female. (Hence, most people understand our relationship as lesbian).

    Really, we have not been involved in the LG community round here. I remember one of the few times I went to a gay bar (with a guy I was dating) one of the people in the bar started asking me very loudly if I was a woman or a man.

    I've also recently struggled to have my voice heard in an "LGBT" (really LG) group online. They were posting things supposedly in "support" of trans people, but which actually degraded us and alienated us. I received some support for my criticism, but much more comments along the lines of "stop overreacting and shut up", and the owner of the group refused to make any changes.

    Needless to say I don't feel welcome or supported in the LG community.

    Here in Berlin the queer community is diverse and I do find pockets of acceptance. Someone mentioned the WLT* label above (which is how I found this page through Google). So far I've found events labelled WLT* to be very safe spaces for me, though I haven't been to many, so I don't know if some of those spaces are more trans-masculine-biased.

    In any case there seems to be a little subgroup of the Berlin queer/leftie scene which seems quite trans* aware and accepting.

    Berlin is a special place though. It's kind of a little world of its own.

    (You are welcome to use this comment however you like in blog posts, books, or other. I rescind any copyright. You could print it out on toilet paper and sell it at an IBS clinic if you liked).