When I saw that it was coming up for Lesbian Visibility Week and I was going to write a blog about it, I had a lot of ideas, but also a lot of concerns.
One of the things that keeps rearing its head is that a small but very vocal group of lesbians are very against trans women being called women. Another one is that some people have pushed the idea that anyone saying that they would not want to sleep with a trans woman would automatically be labelled as transphobic.
I don’t want to focus on these, but I do want to acknowledge them. Some cisgender lesbians are attracted to some women who happen to be trans, others are not. There is no problem with either of these positions. The issue comes if those women then choose to say that trans women are men. This is transphobic, and unacceptable.
Anyone, regardless of gender and sexuality, is wrong to try to force another person to be attracted to them or to have any form of sexual relation with them. This is not a trans issue, it’s a people issue.
So what do I want to talk about?
What I want to focus on in this blog is the large proportion of the lesbian community, women, and the queer community more widely, who are accepting of trans+ people.
I remember when the #NotInMyName movement happened and cis women were standing up to say that they include trans women and do not want them to be excluded from womens spaces.
I also know that a significant portion of our volunteers identify as women, many of whom are also cis. They are here to support trans+ people of all kinds. Many of our volunteers are also in the queer community.
I even have a ‘save the date’ card on my fridge for a wedding between two lesbians I know, one of whom is trans.
So why am I telling you this?
We’re often told that trans+ people threaten women’s spaces. How about we look at how threatened trans+ people are in various spaces? How they might be shouted at, threatened or abused by others.
There are ways to manage gendered spaces when a trans+ person needs support and access. Sometimes, like with domestic abuse services, that will mean assessing each individual case and determining how best to support all involved. Other times it might mean having a blanket rule, such as mixed gender wards or side rooms in the case of hospital admission.
What is sexuality anyway?
Within society, sexuality is labelled by who a person is attracted to compared to what their gender is. You’re ‘gay’ if you like people of the same gender, ‘straight’ if you’re a man who likes women or a woman who likes men, ‘bi’ or ‘pan’ if you like same and different genders and so forth.
So what does that mean if you are in an existing relationship and one partner transitions? One of the things that we often come up against when a couple choose to stay together or are working out if they will or not is that the cis partner, if they are straight or gay, suddenly find that they are seen as a different sexuality to the one that they identify with.
The good news is that within our support structure we hold space for both partners to explore this. Sometimes partners stay together, sometimes they split amicably, and sometimes they cannot find a way to do either. We meet people where they are at regardless of where that is. This is why we do not allocate trans+ volunteers to support our cis members. That way when we have a partner who needs to vent and talk about all the things that they hate at that time about their partner or partners’ transition, they can do this safely without harming our volunteers.
Want to help with this?
We need cis and trans+ volunteers across several areas of support, including social media and events. If this could be you, you can apply here.
Want to learn more about the issues that trans+ people can face? We also have training available – details here.