No space for trans folk in trans spaces

Content Notice: Angry use of t-word slur.

I get that Reddit is something of a pseudo-anarchist website in the sense that various subreddits are subject to little outside policing, but that doesn’t mean it is unique in this particular issue: One of the types of people attending trans spaces are “allies” who are desperately scrambling for answers and justification for leaving relationships of partners who have decided to transition.

There’s a reason I place so much value in good-and-proper “NO CIS PEOPLE” spaces. Few and far between, these “allies” are a giant pain in the ass when they enter the “all are welcome” trans spaces. Pro tip: If all are welcome, it ain’t a trans space.

Cis dude posts a story about his wife coming out as a trans man. The “coming out” process was almost two years prior to writing the post–referring to his now-husband as a wife is pretty fucking insulting after that amount of time. A couple months and he’d receive some gentle correction from me. A couple years? Get with the program buddy. But cis dude wants assurances that he’s not transphobic for losing attraction to his spouse.

Well, if all cis dude did was say, “my wife is now my husband and I’m straight, am I transphobic to break off the marriage?” the answer would be no. But he got called out for referring to his spouse as his wife after two frackin’ years into his transition. It just did not register to him that he was belittling his husband’s identity–cis dude’s straightness took priority. Wife this, wife that. Female this, female that. I’m straight. No really, I’m straight straight straight.

Cis dude is promptly called out for it.

Cis dude places an edit in his OP to the effect of “Trannies are mean! You’re all so hateful! I respect trans people but this community is spiteful!” Except no, dude, you obviously don’t respect trans people if you refuse to wrap your head around your spouse’s transition after two years. It’s easy. He’s a dude. You’re a dude. If that’s not your thing, it is reasonable to divorce. But stop calling him your fucking wife. That’s like, Trans Respect 101. Fuck off with the gendered titles and pronouns you knew, use the ones they’re asking for.

Second kind of “ally:” The one that wants assurances they’ll still be attracted to their trans partner after bottom surgery.

It is certainly more common for cis men to fetishize pre-op or non-op trans women, but other permutations exist even if they’re less frequent. There is a cohort, albeit tiny, of cis lesbians that actively desire pre-op or non-op trans women–they often share some kind of anecdote about the “combination of energies” (why yes, woo seems to be common among this cohort) that ignites their sex drive. This same cohort often regales trans spaces with story about how they love sex with their girlfriend, but they are worried they will no longer be attracted to their girlfriend after bottom surgery. They ask if it’s okay to admit to their girlfriend that they are attracted because of their op status. Some have even phrased their question in a way that suggests they disapprove of bottom surgery.

This would be an excellent time to remind everyone that women can be agents of the kyriarchy as well–the cis lesbians sharing these anecdotes are objectifying their girlfriends. Your partner is more than their genitals. Or, at the very least, if all you’re interested in is their genitals, you should at least be forthright about that, so they can give informed consent as to whether or not they want to partake in that attitude.

What’s more, in some binary trans folk, dysphoria can be such a potent force that asking them to forgo surgery for the sake of your fetish would be like telling your wife, after she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, that you “wouldn’t want them to remove your breasts, because I like your boobs.” Yeah, the hypothetical wife in this scenario wouldn’t be impressed, and neither would the heavily dysphoric trans person.

And make no mistake–women have fetishes. It’s typically used to stigmatize the sexuality of men–and admittedly, many men struggle with context and boundaries where it’s okay to express their sexuality–but we ought to remember that most people have a sexuality. It might be repressed, but it exists in allosexuals, and even on some ends of the ace spectrum.

It’s one thing to admit to yourself that genitals factor in to your attraction, but understand the damage you’re doing is going to be in proportion to the trans person’s dysphoria when you discourage them from bottom surgery. A non-op, no or little dysphoria trans person probably wouldn’t care. Pre-op? You’re going to piss them off. You’re asking them to prioritize your sexual desire over their own survival. If your desire is a non-op trans person, it’s on you to make that clear from the onset, or as soon as you’ve figured that out.

TL;DR If you’re dating a trans person, ask a trans group if it’s okay to ask for advice, before asking for advice. I, for one, have little interest in coaching invaders to my space when I’m in that space to get away from cis people to begin with. I’ll give you advice (“If your desire is a non-op trans person, it’s on you to make that clear from the onset, or as soon as you’ve figured that out.”) on my terms, thanks.



  1. says

    I am somehow not at all surprised that cis het people manage to make trans issues all about being cis het.

    My last gf was a pre-op trans woman. That discussion came up, whether or not I’d bail because different genitals. My “of course not!” was a swift reply, but after that, I realized how much anxiety and fear had been behind that question, and smacked myself good and hard at being so godsdamned insensitive.

  2. Katie Anderson says

    My wife (who is straight) actually runs a group that is the other side of this – a space for partners of trans people to talk and help each other out. She started it because every group she found when I started transitioning was awful – none were trans-focused, and most seemed to have no problem with cheering people on with homophobic rants when they decided to divorce.

    Her group is specifically for those who are trying to understand, support, and make things work, and to help things go smoothly in cases where they do end up separating. They tolerate the little slip-ups, but in cases like yours above they certainly will call them out on it.

    I think part of the reason we see situations like the one you describe come up is because it’s so hard for to find good supportive communities to discuss issues in outside of trans groups. The guy in your story should have known better about misgendering through research already, but sometimes it’s just that stern “no seriously, that’s bad” from an actual person that finally gets through to them. That shouldn’t have to come from trans people who deal with that more than enough as it is, but it turns out a lot of other “support” groups won’t call them out or will even actively support the misgendering.

  3. Siobhan says

    That’s wonderful to hear! (Sincere, I know that can read sarcastic–it’s not).

    Certainly a spouse or partner’s transition can be turbulent for the cis partner. Absolutely. And I did say I’d even be able to work with that, on my own terms. The problem is that these cis partners have been welcomed into trans spaces, or at least the ones I’ve accessed, and they turn it into… well, a diatribe about how unfair transitioning is to cis people. If I’m trying to find some solidarity and community, I don’t want to have to patiently explain to cis people how they’re being a dick when they contemplate pressuring their partner in/out of certain transition choices.

    Anyway, I’m thankful for your wife’s work.