Sunday, May 22, 2011

Transexuals and disclosure.

This post is mainly a response to Zinna Jones' video which I commented on. I basically expressed that I found the part of the video dealing with a man sleeping with a transsexual they didn't know was trans contained some bad argument. I got pissed off with you tube's (not enough to actually say anything substantive) comment character limits and decided here would be the best place for a response.

So, is it unreasonable for a trans-woman who is about to sleep with a man to say nothing about her once himness to her imminent lover?

Like most interesting issues the views of both sides have something going for them. From the point of view of the woman, she is a woman, end of! Why should biological history matter?
Many heterosexual men find the idea of sleeping with another man truly horrifying. While the woman he is sleeping with is not a man, the fact that the individual was once a man is not entirely irrelevant. Most men would have a kind of crying game reaction to sleeping with a transgender woman; said reaction might not be rational or fair to the woman, but that won't stop it from being the case. Most men would be harmed by the experience.

I can personally attest that I would not like to sleep with a transgender woman. It may not be rational, it may be very unfair to discriminate on those grounds, but it is the case. I expect that this would be the majority opinion on this issue.

As to the notion that a man who would be very bothered by this should take the precaution of asking any woman they are about to sleep with if they are a transsexual, I find this suggestion ridiculous. If anyone, male or female, asks anyone else, male or female, "Are you a transsexual?" the reaction will in general be quite negative. If that particular question should pop out immediately pre-coitus, chances are the sex ain't gonna happen after all. Most people are offended by anything which questions their gender identity and this particular question does so directly. It is simply an impractical suggestion. It is something of an irony that it is the very same sense of gender identity that would prompt a transgender woman to not want to disclose the fact in the first place.

Consider the legitimate concern you might have about being driven around by a taxi-driver who was bombed out of his mind. Were you to discover, after the fact, that the taxi-driver who just dropped you off had been smashed behind the wheel you would probably be fairly upset by it. While you may be well aware that you are adverse to being driven around by a drunken taxi-driver, it would be none-the-less impractical, not to mention rather rude, to ask every taxi-driver whose taxi you get into "Have you been drinking?"
One of the reasons we don't ask questions like this is that we expect our taxi-drivers to be sober. It will be almost always the case that taxi-drivers are sober. It is the default state of things. Even though a drunk taxi-driver might well actually kill you, we are willing to take the possibly fatal risk on the grounds of how unlikely it is and the hassles we would create by actually asking every taxi-driver we patronise if they have been drinking. The asking of every potential sex partner if they are transsexual is a similar proposition. Though it would be psychologically damaging for many men, myself included, to unwittingly sleep with a transsexual woman, it is statistically highly unlikely to occur and the rather severe social penalty we would pay for asking just to be sure, makes it far more practical to simply take the risk. It is worth noting that the possibility probably doesn't even enter the minds of most men. That is in no way an indicator of how much it would bother them.

What we risk is not just a function of how damaging or not an unfavourable outcome would be, but a weighing of that outcome against the probability of the event occurring. While getting hit by lightning would be extremely damaging, most of use will risk going abroad in inclement weather armed with nothing but a confidence in the extremely low probability that it will actually happen. That we may not even forsee a potential harm does not equate with not finding the experience harmful should it happen to occur.

I think the notion that how much effort we put into protecting ourselves from a particular harm (especially a harm that has a negligible probability of actually occurring) is in a measure of how harmful we would find it is a terrible argument. It is a weak argument in general but with something as specific as sex with someone transgender, it is particularly weak. The possibility that any of my previous sexual partners might have been transgender never even occurred to me. It is an extreme rare thing. People simply would not be able to function if they were to try to protect themselves from every potential harm, no matter how unlikely.

I am entirely sympathetic to the crappy position this puts transgender women in. As ZJ mentions in the video, such women are women and have gone to great lengths to fully adopt their true gender. They neither want to mention previous biology and most likely feel there should be no need anyway. They are also reluctant to mention it as it would evoke stigmas etc.
While I sympathise with the position of such women, I can't help but think there is a slightly disingenuous quality to not mentioning it. In the video ZJ compares this in some fashion to someone having to list everything about themselves, from religious views to political preferences etc. While it would be absurd to expect two people who are considering having sex to disclose every detail of their minds and bodies, there are some cases where it might be more relevant. If you are fairly sure that something you are withholding is likely to make your potential partner not want to sleep with you (say you are actually a very mature looking 15 year old and you know the other person thinks you are older) but choose to keep it to yourself, there is an element of deceit at work.

ZJ suggests in the video that a man's primary concern, if they found themselves in the situation of having slept with a transgender woman, would be a crisis of sexuality. I doubt this would be a factor for most men at all, let alone the central concern. Many men find the idea of being with other men repulsive in the extreme. It is an echo of this revulsion that is at work. The ignorant may idiotically cry "homophobia" at this revelation. This is not the case. If I suggested that the idea of eating live spiders was revolting to me, few would cry "arachnophobia". While I find the idea of having sex with another man horrifying, I have absolutely no issue with gay men (or women or bi or trans either for that matter). I entirely support the rights of gay couples to marry, adopt etc. I would not feel any particular need to discriminate, hate or even find unsavory a person who did choose to eat live spiders, I just wouldn't want to be sitting at the table with them while they did it. This is not a suggestion either that gay people should keep their relationships hidden or any such nonsense. Refraining from having sex in public places on the otherhand is a reasonable expectation to have of people of any orientation :P
If I were to have unwittingly slept with a transgender woman, I would not have even the slightest hint of a sexuality concern. I am heterosexual. I would be perfectly OK with being gay, were I gay.(I've had moments with girlfriends where I might even have wished I was gay :P) I just happen to hetero.

I haven't slept in a long while, so apologies for spelling/appauling grammar etc.


BathTub said...

Strangely enough I know 2 transgender men->women. And they are a couple. Probably the most unusual relationship I know actually. I have no idea how they met/hooked up, but that must have been the strangest conversation ever.

The Celtic Chimp said...

That is pretty strange. While most hetero men joke at one point or another about being a lesbian trapped in a man's body, perhaps there actually is such a thing!

theObserver said...

Remember the last girl you were with? Yeah, I've something to tell you....

Ozan Selim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ozan Selim said...

A trans-woman still has the same natural man body, sometimes modified to be more woman like. Its the "man body" I think we are physiologically afraid of rather than the former man insisde. Reverse the scenario, if you had sexual contact with a trans-man who still had all the natural elements of a woman, would you feel as suicidal? I suspect not for the majority of men. Not surprisingly, it appears our sexual interest is purely on the physical make up of a person.

Anonymous said...

There is! Sorry, this is a really late reply...I knew a girl who was dating a guy who was going through the process of becoming a woman, but he was attracted to women. He really was 'a lesbian trapped in a guys body' lol.

Trans person said...

"the notion that a man who would be very bothered by this [sleeping with a transsexual] should take the precaution of asking any woman they are about to sleep with if they are a transsexual, I find this suggestion ridiculous."

Hmmmmm...almost as ridiculous as the notion of taking the precaution of telling every person you are about to sleep with something as irrelevant, private, personal, and sensitive as your medical history, just in case someone might be bothered by it? The very thing, you're suggesting transgender people do? That's strange, how can someone so inconsiderate have the nerves to demand an entire minority group to hold them into consideration in their daily lives, when they, themselves feel they aren't even worth the consideration in their own?

Can you honestly re-read this tripe without feeling the slightest amount of guilt? Without feeling just a tinge bit transphobic, cissexist, or bigoted in your reasoning as to why trans-people should essentially assume that everyone might not want to touch them just in case someone might find the thought of touching someone who is transgender icky, disgusting, or threatening, much like your debasing and degenerating examples suggest? Ever heard of the expression, "it's me, not you." ? Those who would not like to touch a transgender person, should apply that expression to themselves, because your feelings of psychological anguish towards the idea of mistakingly sleeping with a transgender person....... sounds more like your problem, because I'm still not following why trans-people should have to appease and appropriate their rights and identities just so you wont have to take any responsibility for your sad sentiments that explicitly state, "trans-women are men and sleeping with men is horrifying for me." These are transphobic sentiments; transphobia is categorized as a range of negative attitudes and feelings, including an irrational fear, towards transsexualism, transsexual, or transgender people and i'd go on to include discriminatory attitudes and prejudices concerning transgender people.

The only thing trans people are prompt not to do, is worry about people who want to make a bed out of their transphobic sentiments, especially after undergoing sex-affirmation surgery. Transgender people don't see themselves as the drunk taxi drivers or spider eaters you compared us to, and were not obligated to coddle those who do. It is not progressive and doing so only reaffirms these debasing and degenerate ideas, beliefs, and comparisons. I'm very sympathetic to the crappy position this puts YOU in, in fact it is even far more unfortunate that you feel being transgender is that abhorrently reprehensible, that the mere thought of asking whether someone is trans or not is just too suggestive to the point where its unspeakably out of the question, much like inquiring if someone is a pedophile or a sex offender. clearly these are your issues, and no amount of your false consensus bias as well as your framing of feelings as some kind of absolute hetero-divine standard, as if you're the spokesperson for all heterosexual people, will ever change that.

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