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the stigma is on trans women, not dating us

So vice recently posted an article about str8 men who date trans women and the stigma associated with loving us (tw: for some transmisogynist language).

Now. I”ve been vocal in the past that this is something that actually requires attention, supporting both Janet Mock and Laverne Cox”s statements on the matter. However, I finally realize that while there is something about this that needs attention, we desperately need to change how this discussion is framed.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and/or Domestic Violence (DV) are really pressing issues for trans women of colour. Given that a significant portion of the twoc who are murdered every year are murdered by men they have some kind of intimate connection with, this is actually something that requires immediate attention.

Of course, everytime this conversation comes up, there are a large contingent of trans women who complain that the discussion is too ‘hetero” and that lesbian trans women require attention too/instead. Which… yes. But this isn”t a zero sum game and we actually can just prioritize trans women of colour in a general sense, especially on issues that are actually getting us killed. Above all, I want twoc to have better access to support in situations of IPV regardless of their partner”s gender. But the reality is, is that it is often men who are murdering us.

So let”s talk about this vice article.

My first problem is the framing. The sub-title of the article is, “Wanting to have sex with trans women is not synonymous with undoing the stigma against loving them.” I want to be very clear: there is no stigma associated with loving trans women. None. At all. Not even for pretend.

Rather, there is a stigma associated with being a trans woman. Here”s what Toni D’orsay says about stigma:

Stigma (Social Stigma) is the extreme disapproval of or discontent with a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society.

Framing this discussion as if str8 men are stigmatized for loving trans women implies that they are oppressed for it, rather than suffering consequences for their association with a stigmatized person. The act of loving a trans woman is considered deviant and bad because trans women are considered deviant and bad.

But this framing is exactly why the article asks us to feel empathy for these poor men who are stigmatized for loving trans women. I see things like this:

“To tell you the truth, sitting here talking to you about, I”m kind of embarrassed. I should be proudly sharing her in every part of my life,” he said, referring to his colleagues and family, two groups with which he”s yet to break that seal of secrecy. It may not be safe to—Matt”s colleagues say hateful things about trans women. “‘Not human.” ‘Should be executed.” Nasty stuff. Alicia”s told me not to stick my neck out at work, but a couple of times I said, ‘You know what, I bet that person who has been conflicted their whole lives, and has probably suffered their whole life, is finally free.” Matt thinks that if they ever found out, the consequences could be tragic. “You”d read about me in the paper, unfortunately.”

And I… just can”t. While I”m sure it has happened, I cannot think of a single str8 man who has actually been murdered for being in a relationship with a trans woman. However, I can think of several trans women who have been murdered by the str8 men they were in relationships with.

This article frames dating trans women as something one must keep in the ‘closet” for fear of discrimination. But it isn”t stigma or descrimination when you can just stop dating trans women, walk away, and go on living your life in one of the most privileged social classes (str8, cis men):

Subsequently, the term stigma is applied when labeling, stereotyping, disconnection, status loss, and discrimination all exist within a power situation that facilitates stigma to occur.

More to the point, these str8 men deal with issues for loving trans women because trans women are so heavily stigmatized. The stigma is us, not them loving us. Loving us is bad because we are bad.

This is why my ability to empathize with these men is rather limited. Like. This particular guy hasn”t told any of his friends and family about who he is dating. We finish that paragraph with him expressing some likely unfounded fear of being murdered for loving a trans woman. All of which is supposed to make us feel bad for him but…

In a world where str8 men who murder twoc frequently use the trans panic defense as a way to dodge responsibility, it is pretty clear that they sustain no real loss of status or privilege from associating with us. That instead, they can and do mobilize the stigma against trans women as a way to justify murdering us. And they often receive little or no punishment when they invoke this.

Another thing that bothered me was the label ‘trans amorous” men. I just… Look. Being attracted to and loving trans women isn”t a special kind of sexuality, ok? I do tend to feel that this just becomes a nicer euphamism for tranny chaser. And while I had a brief moment discussing this with someone on twitter who felt that this wasn”t a label for fetishism, something in the article convinces me that it must be:

When I asked Alex how important it is that a girl is able to pass well, he responded, “I”m attracted to femininity, not masculinity. It”s that simple.”

As the writer notes:

Not to mention that holding trans women to a cisgender standard is unrealistic: The majority of trans girls will probably never pass perfectly. Clearly, having a boner for hot girls with dicks is far from synonymous with undoing the stigma against loving transgender women.

These alleged trans amorous men (at least some of them) clearly do not actually ‘love” trans women in a general sense, they love an idealized, fetishized notion of what they think trans women ought to be, not for what we actually are. It is a fetish if you cannot deal with the reality of who and what trans women are and deal with the delightful diversity within this class of people. Saying that you”ll only date cis coding, cisnormative trans women isn”t loving trans women. At all. Not even a little.

Because those of us who don”t code consistently (or at all) as cis women also deserve love and are desirable as women. The ‘matt” from this article probably wouldn”t touch me with a ten foot pole. I definitely can feel the love here.

Last… I found how ‘matt” discussed sex workers really distasteful. I”m not going to get into it too much because it isn”t my place to speak on this. But. Yeah. It”s pretty gross, imo.