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Many well-meaning allies, friends, and family members of transgender people will say things like: Before we talk about how that sentiment alone is transphobic, I want to be direct about the fear that trans people, especially trans women, face in the world of dating cisgender people. Dating as a trans woman online or in person often means an exhausting stream of inappropriate, fetishizing, dehumanizing, and sometimes violent messages asking about my genitals, people expecting praise for fetishizing me, and others assuming my identity is either not authentic or repulsive in some way.
This gets even more complicated when trans women are trying to date straight cisgender men. These men are interested in my femininity, even though they may be worried about being seen as gay just for hitting on a woman with a penis, or having sex with a girl who used to have one.
Transphobic people will assert practically anything to get away from the much simpler truth, what trans people have been saying for decades: This happens because we, as a culture, seem to want trans people to both be cis-appearing enough to be invisible, but also we expect trans people to out themselves at every possible moment, just to make them even easier to avoid. When I came out as a trans woman, the first concern I heard from many close friends and family members were two things: It also says a lot that these are the first things I heard, much louder and more common than excitement, gratitude for my trust, and celebration of my trans identity.
Trans people are not trying to force you to date us. It is, however, deeply transphobic to decide that you never want to date any transgender person ever, and the choice to draw such a line is rooted in ignorance, fear, and disgust of trans people. The transgender community is a massively diverse group with all kinds of body types, genital configurations, personalities, hobbies, and relationship styles.
To categorically exclude all people from that group, who would otherwise align with your sexuality trans men for a straight woman, trans women for a lesbian woman, etc. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are whole and valid identities outside of our western colonialist sex and gender binary.
Repeat this to yourself over and over. This is the root of all trans liberation. Are you afraid of being seen in public with a trans person? What would it mean for you to truly step into the fight for trans rights?
How can you grow your empathy for us enough to believe we deserve public, joyful, shameless love for ourselves and from our partners? How can you be public and vocal in your support for trans lives? Are you afraid of people challenging your identity as a straight person, a lesbian or a gay man?
How can you shift your thinking to truly validate trans people as a natural human variation instead of see us as an outlier, an aberration, or a mistake? Are you afraid of believing yourself to no longer be a lesbian or gay man? By that logic, do you also see trans men as women because they have a vulva? That would also be an intensely transphobic assumption. Identity categories are only as useful as they are freeing you, not limiting your authentic desires and attraction.
I offer you these thoughts in order to challenge you to challenge yourself. I ask you these questions so that you can ask them of yourself when our transphobic culture refuses to acknowledge us in media, in sex ed, in public life, in history, in politics, and everywhere else.
The first step to dismantling transphobia is dismantling your own internalized transphobia. The second step is being honest and accountable to that process of growth in your allyship to help other cisgender people around you to grow with you.