Penis Impossible: The most baffling transphobia ever


Purely out of necessity, people can be very creative when trying to invent real-world evidence – rather than merely abstract objections – to justify hating and fearing trans people. Some of this transphobia relies on arguments about scenarios that are theoretically possible, but do not actually occur: things like cis boys passing themselves off as trans girls to peep in locker rooms, something which happens only in the imagination of Bill O’Reilly. Other transphobia relies on citing situations that probably do occur sometimes, and then using them in arguments that are plainly illogical – like a cis man picking up a trans woman he finds attractive while assuming she’s cis, having a mutually enjoyable tryst with her, and later discovering she’s trans and retroactively declaring this was now a singularly horrific event which was wholly her fault.

Occasionally, we get the chance to see transphobes wander just a little too far into the realm of fantasy. I don’t know how I managed to miss this, but last year, transphobic radical feminist “Ann Tagonist” took the typical disclosure-and-deception sex trope and ran with it – directly into oncoming traffic. Tagonist’s breathtaking new argument (I’ve honestly never seen this one before) is structured as follows:

  1. Cis women can be at risk of becoming pregnant from sex.
  2. Cis lesbians might assume that limiting themselves to lesbian sex means they are not at risk of pregnancy.
  3. If a cis woman sleeps with a trans woman, the cis woman could be at risk of becoming pregnant.
  4. If the cis woman in question has not been informed that her partner is a trans woman rather than a cis woman, she might not realize she needs to take steps to mitigate her risk of pregnancy.
  5. Therefore, trans people should be obligated to disclose that they are trans before having sex.

Before getting into this, I’ll give you a moment to locate the exact point where this falls apart. (Hint: somewhere between 3 and 4.)

Tagonist first makes reference to a real-life case that can’t possibly support this line of argument:

The Scottish Transgender Alliance has filed a petition with the Home Office demanding that Scotland’s courts stop jailing people who lie about their trans status to their sexual partners. Over 2,400 people put their names on this thing. The Scottish Transgender Alliance argues that a person’s “gender history” is their own personal medical history and they are not obliged to disclose anything to do with it.

This petition followed the conviction of Chris Wilson, a trans man who did not disclose that he was trans before dating two women. Trans men (men who were assigned female at birth) lack the capacity to produce sperm, no matter which procedures or surgeries they may have had. There is no way in which the risk of pregnancy is relevant to trans men having sex with cis women – not even in theory.

Undeterred by this particular fact, or any facts at all, Tagonist goes on to lay out her concerns:

Lesbians, when they consent to sex with female partners, are doing so on the understanding that they are definitely not going to become pregnant. … If a lesbian ‘consents’ to sex with someone she thinks is reproductively female but that person is actually reproductively male, that lesbian has not given informed consent. She has not been given enough information with which to make her decision. Women need to know the reproductive capacity of a potential sex partner so they can decide not to engage, or take steps to protect themselves. …

“Gender history” is irrelevant here. We need to know the sex of the people we’re having sex with because, hello, pregnancy. Legislation which allows males to lie about their sex in order to obtain consent contravenes women’s bodily autonomy.

Rarely do I encounter transphobia rooted in something that is not just improbable, not just illogical, but in fact literally impossible. If we were to make a decision tree of every different way in which such a hypothetical event could proceed, there would be no possible endpoint where the cis woman partner would both experience an event leading to pregnancy and remain unaware that her partner is actually a trans woman and not a cis woman.

In order for it to be possible for a trans woman to impregnate a cis woman during sex, that trans woman must still be capable of producing sperm. This would no longer be the case following vaginoplasty (commonly known as “The Surgery”), during which the testes are discarded. A trans woman with a vagina has no remaining tissue in her body that can produce sperm – ever.

The only way in which a trans woman could conceal the fact that she’s trans during any kind of genital-genital contact is if she has a vagina, and thus can’t produce sperm. After all, the entire trope of trans women not disclosing prior to sex relies on a scenario where our partners can have sex with us and still not be able to tell we’re trans. Conversely, the only way in which a trans woman could impregnate a cis woman during sex is if she still has a penis (and testes), the presence of which can be assumed to disclose one’s transness inherently. Yet Tagonist seems to be under the impression that these two mutually exclusive possibilities could happen concurrently – that a cis woman could have sex with a trans woman without knowing she’s trans, and become pregnant due to this.

I struggle to comprehend the reasoning behind this. Perhaps Tagonist believes that cis women can become pregnant from exposure to trans women’s vaginas, something which is physically impossible. One might as well fret about the potential risk of virginal conception (and any unintended deities that may result). Or maybe she believes cis women are so totally ignorant that they would not recognize the presence of a woman’s penis as an indication that this woman is indeed trans – which is contradicted by her assumption that cis women will have enough baseline knowledge of trans issues that they will know how to act on this information.

Or perhaps she imagines that a cis woman could somehow remain completely unaware that a real, live human penis is present in close range of her genitals – before, during, and after a sexual act that could lead to pregnancy. Maybe, in Tagonist’s world, trans women are capable of flawlessly concealing their own penises even during penetration itself, like the sexual equivalent of the hallway scene from Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol.

Which totally happens all the time, what with our state-of-the-art Invisible Stealth Parts – the latest craze that’s sweeping Thailand! I mean, how else would such a thing be possible? Have I missed something here, like time-traveling trans sperm? I’m genuinely curious as to how this whole line of argument coalesced in her mind. For all I know, this is something she’s dealt with before, in which case she should strongly consider taking up Randi on his $1 million paranormal challenge. Otherwise, her ramblings about “informed consent” in regards to trans people having sex ring rather hollow, given that she doesn’t seem to be informed about much in this area at all.

Comments

  1. Nepenthe says

    TERFs and patriarchy fans seem equally invested in the idea of penis magic–even former penis magic.

    It would be hilarious if it weren’t so threatening and so pathetic.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    I just took a trip through a bit of Ann Tagonist-land.
    It is a creepy place.
    .
    Previously, I have been in the
    “I don’t care what you think you are, can you fix my car?” school of reacting-to-gender-identity.
    (akin to the “don’t care if you’re black, white or purple” reaction to racism)
    .
    I had no idea of the depth and breadth of outright, irrational, homicidal hatred toward trans* people.
    Thank you for the education.
    In the future, I will be speaking out (in my own little corner of the world) (for whatever that’s worth)

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Trans men (men who were assigned female at birth) lack the capacity to produce sperm…

    Eh what? That may apply to certain groups of “intersex” people, but I have read, e.g., an interview with a post-surgical (thus, presumably, thoroughly counseled and analyzed) transwoman discussing the effects of her (physical) changes on her wife and sons.

  4. says

    Reading the ‘argument’ presented by Tagonist felt like getting smacked very hard in the head with a large padded club. I was left staring at the screen in utter bemusement for a full minute before I could even read past that point. As Nepenthe said; it would be pathetic to see them resort to such absurd lengths to try to justify themselves if the outcomes weren’t so deeply harmful.

    • jayh says

      It will. As a rule that starts them accusing *you* of declaring you’re pro-MRA. Making the least bit of sense is totally optional for these people.

  5. says

    Wait ….. so her entire argument relies on someone not knowing when they have had full sex? Are we really going to be hearing questions such as “What did you imagine my client to have been doing to you?” from a defence counsel?

    Suppose A is a committed vegan, who as a matter of principle refuses even to sleep with anyone who eats m**t or dairy products. A meets B and they end up having a night of thoroughly enjoyable sex. Later, A is furious to discover B tucking into a burger. A would not have consented to sex with B in the first place, had they known in advance of B’s dietary broad-mindedness. Did B rape A?

    Your choice of sexual patners is the most personal choice you can make. And the normal rules about discrimination don’t really apply. You can be as bigoted, prejudiced and discriminatory as you like when it comes to selecting the person with whom you intend to share your own DNA. And if there’s a whole entire group of people — Chinese people, people who eat m**t, people with penises — with whom you specifically do not want to have sex, this is one of the few occasions when it’s actually fine to feel like that and nobody is going to think of you as sexist, racist, ageist, sizeist, disablist or any other kind of -ist with an -ism. And if someone is actually telling you that you must have sex with a certain person, and you can’t just write off whole sectors of society at a single stroke as potential sexual partners, I would be with you in calling that “political correctness gone mad”. If you don’t want to have sex with me because I was once thought to be a man (even though I was never any good at that, and often got called a girl; but I digress …..) then I actually respect you in that choice. Because whatever else I may be, I am not, and have no intention to be, a rapist.

    Because who you have sex with is an intensely personal decision, and not one to be made lightly. But it’s also your responsibility, yours and nobody else’s, to make sure that the person you intend to have sex with does actually meet your personal suitability criteria before you start. It is never the other person’s responsibility to disclose facts to you that might influence your choice of whether or not you were going to have sex with them; for one thing, other people can’t be expected to know your personal likes and dislikes, so they would have no idea what to disclose in the first place.

    And sometimes, if it isn’t obvious whether or not someone meets your sexual standards (and obviety is subjective), you might actually have to come out and ask them a direct question. “Wait, before we have sex ….. You don’t ….. support Nottingham Forest, do you?”

  6. says

    I’m stoned, so I can tell if I’m missing something, or if BecomingJulie’s post made very little sense.

    No, actually, I’m pretty sure. It doesn’t make sense.

  7. Jacob Schmidt says

    SallyStrange

    Really? I think I got it.

    The basic message is that, if you have arbitrary hangups about whom you have sex with, it’s your responsibility to ask about those things. BecomingJulie draws an analogy between being transgender and things like being a fan of a certain sports team; it has absolutely no affect on anyone but the person in question. It’s not the responsibility of others to guess as which things we consider deal breakers, whether that deal breaker is being transgender or liking the wrong sports team.

  8. lochaber says

    I’m struggling here…

    I guess, maybe, if there were a pre/non-op trans woman, who did a good job of tucking, and maybe like, was going to claim to use a strapon or something, and then did a quick untuck, managed an erection, and then penetration while her partner was distracted, maybe?

    But, as unlikely as I think that is, the issues with consent doesn’t have anything to do with the trans status of the penetrator, but the (supposed) deception in that (supposed, contrived) scenario is the issue.

    I don’t know… I’m fully on board with the idea that no one is obligated to have sex with anyone to disprove some sort of perceived discrimination or something, but I do feel that if someone has some sort of absolute deal breaker as far as choosing sexual partners, it’s up to them to get that out on the table on th outset. Don’t want to sleep with a trans person, an Asian, or someone born in September, ask them if they are trans, Asian, or born in September. If it’s really that important to you get verification. And good luck getting laid.

  9. resident_alien says

    Ms Ann Tagonist reminds me of the guy who told me in earnest that if it weren’t for stomach acid, women would totally get pregnant from giving blowjobs. Actually, it’s more like that racist woo that passed around (white) Mitteleuropa early last century: That white women who read “N**ro-novels” (whatever that might be…) during pregnancy risked giving birth to mixed-raced babies. Tagonist’s drivel makes as much sense scientifically and is motivated by a differnt flavour of the same hatred.

      • resident_alien says

        In my native tongue, the translation for that word is often used as a synonym for “servant”, “social inferior” or “person who obeys without question”. The word itself may only be describing an ethnic group and even Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t find it problematic. But because of the racist connotations in my own language and culture of origin, I don’t want to use it.

        • Question mark says

          Well, in much of Europe, which is where I’m from, slaves were often as white as the rest of the population. Black people were a very rare sight, and in some countries, still are to this day, so in many European languages, the connection between people of colour and slavery simply doesn’t exist.

          And in many languages, the word for ‘black’ has an unambiguous association with corruption, degenerateness, so referring to a black person with that word would be inherently insultive.

          Then there are the black people who don’t wish to associate with their African ancestry or are identified as ‘black’ while having no African ancestry of note (Australian Aboriginals for instance). Also, in some languages, the word ‘African’ may have a common connotation of primitiveness/tribalism (languages can be offensive like that).

          If only we could come up with a new, unambiguously positive word to describe black people across all languages.

  10. says

    The basic message is that, if you have arbitrary hangups about whom you have sex with, it’s your responsibility to ask about those things. BecomingJulie draws an analogy between being transgender and things like being a fan of a certain sports team; it has absolutely no affect on anyone but the person in question. It’s not the responsibility of others to guess as which things we consider deal breakers, whether that deal breaker is being transgender or liking the wrong sports team.

    Jacob – on second reading (no longer intoxicated and no longer very very tired): you’re right. And I agree 100% with the sentiment. Apologies to BecomingJulia for not reading better and not just shutting up when I was so out of it.

  11. Question mark says

    I’d think the assumably non-consented-to use of a penis in sex would be a vastly more relevant issue than the HORRIBLE AND TOTALLY REALISTIC threat of not noticing said penis and finding out you’re pregnant later. And then she uses this pregnancy-stuff to call it rape? >_>

  12. Joanie Jolie says

    It simply seems that when it comes to transgender people and transsexual people there is certainly a problem where we struggle with terminology even within the trans community. Step one in confusion. Then we have transphobia which combines myth, lack of knowledge, rumors, innuendo, supposition, unbelievable stretching of the truth, Straw man arguments, unfounded supposed anecdotal evidence ALL mixed with outright lies. Step two. Lastly we have the super fundamentalist religious doctrine which assigns the value of abomination, evil incarnate and in league with Satan.

    My guess is we of the trans community must receive supernatural powers from our service to the devil. Wealth, riches beyond our dreams and the capacity to perform true magic based on our unbridled carnal desires to create more spawn of Satan. My confusion is i haven’t received my invitation to the installation ceremony for my powers yet. Did I miss the sign up sheet, is it only up on line? Can anybody tell me the web address? Is January the only month for open sign ups? I worry that I missing out on the global conspiricy and damaging my opportunities for advancement! I really feel left out. Can somebody hook me up with the demonic shop steward please?

    • Jenny says

      oh didnt you know? hell hasnt upgraded to the internet yet you see, still a postal address government departments and a lack of embracing new technologies and all :D you just need to write to ‘evil minion recruitment, PO box 666, 19th level of hell (yeah they’ve been expanding) just give them your name address and blood type and in 6-8 weeks you’ll get a welcome pack a fruit basket and a complimentary pen :D

      that aside considering there are people who genuinly seem to belive gay people cause earthquakes and flooding then trans people must also have some sort of latent magic powers to using similar crazy logic

      • Joanie Jolie says

        Wow Jenny thanks! I asked at the support group and somebody there told me: both cable and the phone company don’t have service to Hades yet, so it is still outside the coverage area. Sattelite is not fast enough, The whole IT crew there are really frustrated with trying to have customer service being based in India. Thanks for the address! Oh one lady says IT is working on a smart phone app too for when the service is up.

        Funny you’d think the phone company and cable would serve the dark lord better, we all know where they got there start up money from. Seems like they want to bite the hand that feeds them.

        So it is true if too many of us are in one city it creates a polarized area of power and that it draws natural disasters?

        OK, I guess some places are officially off my vacation plans list.

  13. Jac says

    The only way I can make any sense of Ann Tagonist’s argument involves the pregnant woman afterward saying something like “But I thought it was just a strap-on! An eerily realistic strap-on…”

    As far as I can tell, that scenario *could* happen, and I guess I agree with Ms. Tagonist that the trans-woman probably does have a moral obligation to warn her partner that her weapon actually is loaded, so to speak… But I really doubt that this scenario arises at all often…

  14. Sassafras says

    It’s pretty hilarious in its ridiculousness, but I’m sure Ann Tagonist knows it’s ridiculous, because when people in the comments of her blog point out how she’s wrong, she completely ignores them to pick at anything else in their comments she can use to say “rape” again.

    I think the point is to repeat “trans women are rapists” as often and as loudly as possible so that people who are less invested or knowledgeable of trans issues will see it and forget how the argument is ridiculous but carry the theme of trans=rape. So when someone is trying to speak for transgender rights and acceptance, that confused person will say, “But I remember reading that they’re rapists and they deceive men AND lesbians into sex!” and throw one more roadblock up against useful dialogue.

    • Joanie Jolie says

      When it comes to rumors, isn’t it funny how quickly people latch onto the worst and believe it to be real? People that have known you their whole life are told by the rumor mill you did something bad will: A) dismiss it completely because it is not possible in their minds or B) believe it completely or C) Sort of believe it but until proven wrong they are not trusting you at all. In this type of situation you don’t get a trial, you don’t get to face your accusers and more often than not are as good as guilty too. This is for Christians the 8th Commandment stuff. False Witness, using lies to destroy someones good name. It is as old as sin and people use it because it works.

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