“No cis guys” – no thank you

November 28, 2011 § 35 Comments

I’ve been thinking of the topic of this post for a while, but it all kind of reached a head when I received an invitation to a private party this weekend. Disclaimer: I do believe that individuals and small private groups get to decide their own admissions policy – I frequently hold parties just for my musician friends, because I enjoy sitting round the piano with a bunch of Handel wonks, singing through Messiah. We all have our own biases and sometimes, for better or worse, we just want to roll with them.


So this isn’t a rant about exclusion vs. inclusion – but more about what our categories reveal about us – and what kind of an impact they can make on other people.


This particular event was open to queer people – all queer people, in fact, apart from cis guys. Trans guys were specifically mentioned as being welcome, and cis guys were specifically named as the only excluded group. And my first thought was “do I know of a single trans guy who would be comfortable accepting this invitation? Do I know a single trans man who wouldn’t be slighted by this distinction?”


It reminded me painfully of something I’ve heard again and again over the past couple of years – mostly from queer women, but very occasionally from “straight” men. A contrast to the prevailing reaction I got eight years ago on the London scene, which was mostly “urgh – so what DO you have between your legs?” Maybe this is an improvement – but I think not. Because, now, it seems to be “cis guys are so boring/gross/I’d never be with a real man – but you’re so hot”. An explicit or implicit assumption that if I agree to fuck someone they’d be spared the stigma of being with a man – while still enjoying the experience of being fucked by a masculine person. The image conjured, but never fully articulated – that they could revel in being with someone slim-hipped, flat-chested, muscular, hairy – but lacking the supposed threat/unpleasantness of a natal penis.


Not to mention that the people taking this stance seem to take a very narrow view of what constitutes a trans man – because, without looking at medical records, how would you differentiate between a cis man and a trans man who has followed a full hormonal/surgical medical transition? For myself, I’m afraid I’m painfully close to the stereotype of “urban gender non-conforming trans guy”. Undercut? Tattoos? Piercings? Skinny jeans? Oh yes. Surgery – yes. Hormones – sadly, no. But, on the surface, a pretty good match for a type that seems increasingly fetishised by people who see us almost as a separate category of male – or female. Though not the same, redolent of that unpleasant sexualised categorisation of trans women as “chicks with dicks” – when someone tries this line of reasoning with me I feel they see me as a “boobless butch”.


The two reasons I’ve heard for this distinction between trans and cis guys are as follows: the socialisation argument, and the bodily argument. I do have a little sympathy for the socialisation argument. Yes, many people in my life tried to tell me that I was a woman, and that I should act accordingly. No matter how painful it was I feel it’s given me an invaluable insight into this grossly misogynistic society, and for that I feel grateful. I think it’s an incredible resource for feminism – to have men/masculine people talk about the category of ‘woman’ society tried to foist upon them, and what that meant. But I don’t think that automatically makes me a better feminist than a cis man. I know many cis guys (I think of my brother in particular) who are as feminist, if not more, than I am. Who have suffered from living in a misogynistic, cissexist society, and who have hurt because of the pain that society has inflicted on people they love. So I can definitely understand someone saying that they wouldn’t be with a man who wasn’t a feminist – I wouldn’t be with a man who wasn’t a feminist. But I don’t care in the slightest if he’s trans or cis – if he gets it then he gets it.


The bodily argument – well, it disgusts me. I hope we would all agree that someone refusing, point-blank, to date a trans man because they assume he doesn’t have a flesh and blood penis is a vile thing to do. But, to me, wanting to sleep with him for the same reason is equally as vile. Three main reasons for this:


1) Um – different trans guys make different choices about what they want to do about their genitals. The assumption that all trans men are men with pussies – well, I’m shuddering at the stupidity, and the callousness. There are many surgical options available. There are many non-surgical options available. There are some of us with genitalia that fall under the intersex umbrella. Just…random guessing is a stupid thing to do.

2) Having made an assumption about my genitalia, the focus is now turned solely upon my genitalia. So, my personal example (it’s the only one I can adequately give): I’m a huge feminist, but I don’t pretend that I always get it right, and I don’t experience the world as a woman. The same is true for my imaginary cis counterpart. I have a pretty face, but my body is, and always has been, devoid of what is usually assumed to be feminine – for a woman, I’m tall, with very large hands and feet. For a man I’m average. Maybe my imaginary cis twin is the same. Naked, my body is that of a boy’s – well, lots of cis men have fine body hair and slim limbs. The only difference is…you know – THAT one. And if someone would pick me over my hypothetical doppelganger for that reason – well, I wouldn’t want to be picked. I think I have more to bring to even a brief encounter than just that.

3) Having been differentiated from my cis double because of my birth sex – I wonder, do the people fetishising us know how that makes us feel? Or, rather, makes me feel? “Emasculated” is the first word to spring to mind. I think it can be hard to love a trans person – to walk the tightrope between sharing their sorrow at the wrongness they feel with parts of their body and celebrating the beauty you see and love. I know it’s a tall order – to acknowledge  both what is and isn’t there – to see the truth of a person’s being through the veil of their flesh, cognisant of and yet transcending disparities found therein. But I need that, to feel seen by someone, to feel safe with them. And if they couldn’t extend the same courtesy to a cis man – if they put he and I into separate categories of approach – then there could be no relationship. I’ve fought all my life to be counted among men – both to break down sexist barriers of supposed male superiority, but also to prove myself as myself, despite typical sexuated readings of that self. To be cordoned off  – it feels like being named as a fake man, a half man – as a friend once said “the diet coke of men”.


Writing this, I want to ask – how do other trans guys feel? I don’t know. I know that friends of mine would be as hurt by that distinction as I was – I couldn’t know about the wider community, but I could guess.


Again, in my own life – I know that that cut-off is too much. It makes me feel too much the pain of this body, this set of circumstances. It makes me feel a lack, an absence of verisimilitude – and a lack of respect. I want to be wanted not only for who I am, but also for who I feel I should have been.

§ 35 Responses to “No cis guys” – no thank you

  • Chaz says:

    Well said! I’m pre both surgery of any kind and hormones and have felt like even people I’m certain know and see me as a man socially and in the way they ordinarily treat me view me as female for sexual purposes.

    I’d love to have a relationship with a cis-guy or a cis-woman who didn’t see me as a safe/socially acceptable alternative to a man. It’s not like being diet coke it’s like being Quorn when everyone around you wants meat, pretty tasty but not to be compared with the real thing but I am the real thing, for me anyway. Having these things on my chest or no facial hair/penis doesn’t make me any less real any less of a man, it just makes me a different type of man but doesn’t mean I want to be treated differently.

  • Samson says:

    In the last few years I’ve found myself with that sexual preference–“no cis men”–and I was so afraid the cause was something similar to what you express here, that I was fetishizing trans* men, or perceiving them as “Diet Coke” men. After a good several months of thinking about it (I’ll spare you the long long train of thought), I realized it wasn’t anything inherent about penises or lack thereof. It was about having my identity understood and respected. As a genderqueer AFAB person, I am leery of cismen because they generally perceive me as female, and if they desire me-as-female (seeing as, statistically speaking, most male-identified people are straight), it’s extremely uncomfortable and dysphoria-inducing. A trans* man is more likely–not guaranteed, but only more likely–to understand and relate to my body in ways that respect my identity and make me more comfortable. More likely to see through the veil of flesh, so to speak.

    Is it about penises for me? No (in fact I rather like them). Would I categorically refuse to have a relationship/sex with a cis man, or automatically agree to have it with a trans* man? No. But I tend to feel that, with the experiences trans* people have been through, they have less work to do to understand my identity, whereas cis people have more to prove to me before I feel like they’ll be able to respect a non-binary-aligned identity attached to an assigned-female body.

    I definitely don’t want to defend the attitudes you’ve described here. I was just once afraid I had those same attitudes, and am relieved to find I do not–maybe/hopefully some of these people will reexamine theirs as well.

  • Ok, I responded on Twitter when a friend retweeted this, but it occurs to me that my feed is blocked (oops)!

    “I hope we would all agree that someone refusing, point-blank, to date a trans man because they assume he doesn’t have a flesh and blood penis is a vile thing to do.”

    I cannot agree with this. Well, maybe I can agree with the spirit of the letter, if not the intent of the message. A person who ASSUMES a transman doesn’t have a flesh and blood penis? Yeah, pretty vile.

    Refusing to date a transman who doesn’t, when a person’s sexual proclivities pretty much necessitates a natal penis? Not very vile at all.

    To give a bit of background, I’m MAAB, but identify as intergendered/genderqueer. I’m attracted pretty much only to cismen. This is because a sexual encounter, for me, is centered on my partner’s body and, especially, penis. His orgasm and ejaculate. Without both of those, there’s no interest in an encounter for me (the latter of the two is a literal fetish; if it’s not going to happen, I do not get engaged in the activity). I’m a non-penetrative partner, myself, so do not focus on my penis.

    On the other hand, I’m sexually repulsed (that is to say, completely turned off, not just disinterested in) by a vagina/front hole/whatever. So this automatically means that transguys who do NOT have surgery are out for me (because even with a harness or feeldoe I still know it’s there which is, like I said, a turn off to me).

    To me, saying that “refusing to date a transman on the basis that he does not have a penis [if he doesn’t] is vile” is pretty militant in its suggestion that we can’t have sexual preferences. It’s pretty much exactly like a straight parent telling their gay child they can’t be gay. You’re trying to dictate someone’s sexual orientation. It’s like me saying “Well, I’m a woman right now, why aren’t you into me?” when I’m in that space to a very straight man who isn’t into anyone remotely male-bodied. Some people really are into very specific physical makeup.

    And honestly, I have yet to hear/read about a specific surgery that creates what I look for in a sexual encounter. What I get off on is the way a natal penis reacts to stimulation. To being *used* for a partner’s pleasure. They have yet to fully recreate that.

    It comes down to HOW individuals search for romantic and sexual partners. I need sexual compatibility in my romantic relationships… and my sexual orientation IS the limiting factor there. Hell, I’ve had romantic feelings toward women before, but would never pursue because of that sexual incompatibility.

    So long as people are respectful about it, where’s the problem?

  • Jay says:

    Amazing post, thanks! It’s a shame that people still have to point this out, when it should be common sense that anything that emphasises a difference between cis and trans guys will be (at the very least) hurtful.

    Fluffy; I respect your point and I’d like to offer an opposing view. I’m MAAB, identify outside the binary, and attracted solely to men, but men from all backgrounds.

    • And what’s your opposing view?

      That you’re not sexually attracted to the genitalia but to the gender?

      That’s great!

      My point was that not everyone’s so lucky, though (and trust me, I think it’s lucky. I wish I were pansexual almost every day, or at the very least not so sexually focused on the *penis* because it’d make my romantic life a lot simpler). My point was that we shouldn’t automatically think it’s a horrible, vile thing for someone to be attracted to a certain genitalia… and only that genitalia, especially if they’re respectful about that attraction.

      I guess that my attraction has multiple table headings, and sexual attraction is not attached to gender for me… but sexual attraction is intrinsically linked to romantic. There’s the rub. In order for me to be romantically attached to a person, I must first be sexual with and sexually attracted to them. This pretty much requires a natal penis (that’s not going anywhere, mind >.>) to complete that criteria. I don’t honestly care what a partner’s gender identity is… but sexually my need is for a natal penis, if that makes any sense?

      To turn it on it’s head, if I came across a person who was essentially me (only a penetrative partner, of course) who I clicked with? The lack of identifying as a man a majority of the time wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t care. Not because I wouldn’t care about him, but because hir gender identity wouldn’t inform my romantic feelings or my sexual attraction.

      I guess my point is that it’s not ALWAYS about gender in romanti-sexual attraction. Sometimes it is… but in the same way that for some people what’s under the clothes doesn’t matter (to paraphrase the awesome Samson), for some of us the type of clothes a partner wears don’t matter, just what’s underneath ’em. Different strokes and all that.

      I feel like I’m talking myself in a circle ._. Do I make sense at all?

  • Another possible, that I see on a regular basis (and, which underpins so much of societies obsession with gender) is the automatic assumption that a penis a rapist makes.
    I’ve been told that ‘people might not feel comfortable’ having me at a party – despite no-one apart from my sexual partners knowing fo sho what’s in my pants (not just in a Schroedinger’s cat sort of way, I fight to keep it that way).
    Where do we draw the line between ‘safe space’ and ‘exclusive hysteria’

    • cnlester says:

      My god – yes, I had completely forgotten about this, because (say it with me now): only a rapist makes a rapist. Body parts don’t make rapists, alcohol doesn’t make rapists, clothes don’t make rapists.

    • Blake says:

      I’d recommend not using the word “hysteria” when discussing women’s fear of sexual violence unless you enjoy sounding misogynistic and dismissive. Just a hint.

  • Tom Tee says:

    Hmm, not sure I agree with this article.
    I guess this is just your experience. For me i feel that I AM both socially and physically different to cis men, and am totally happy with that. I have no problem with some queer spaces being “women and trans” spaces.

  • annalytica says:

    I can see the logic in creating a space that’s open to all queer people but not cis men. If you want a space where people have some understanding of gender oppression and will at least be trying not to perpetuate it, then on the whole, trans men’s personal experiences of gender oppression tend to make them much more tuned into that stuff than cis men are. Yes, if you’re deciding whether to date an individual and you’re only interested if they’re feminist, you can’t assume that cis man = not feminist, and you’d do better to get to know that individual. But if you’re deciding who to include at a group gathering and you can’t easily check everyone’s feminist credentials at the door, you’re more likely to create a safe space by excluding cis men.

    As a bisexual person I can’t really imagine deciding whether to date and/or sleep with someone based on their genitals. But some people do have sexual preferences that would rule out some potential partners on that basis, and I think it’s important to respect that.

    • cnlester says:

      I think the safe space argument is an interesting one, and I pity anyone having to wade through the quagmire of how best to organise one. Personally, I would prefer a safe space created through a statement of principles and an agreement to respect said principles within. Just through experience – well, I’ve met a few rampantly misogynistic trans guys. And I’ve experienced some pretty nasty shit in so-called safe spaces that based their entry policy on identity rather than ideals – transmisogyny, biphobia, transphobia, racism etc. It’s a tough one!

  • Humanoid says:

    I think Samson summed up my feelings really well. Every sex-party that I have been to up to this point has sent me running and hiding from the subtle gendering behaviour and basic disrespect show by cis gendered guys in the space. Not all, but some. Enough to make me feel utterly uncomfortable, often invisible and sometimes unsafe.

    No safe space policy can really tackle this as even if the hosts can call people out on more subtle behaviours the damage has already been done. It really can take just one look to totally ruin my mojo in many ways. I also know a trans guy couple who prefer, at this point in their transitions, not to be in sauna spaces with cis gendered guys, preferring trans-only spaces,. Do any other trans guys reading this can relate to that?

    I do have relationships with all kinds of people including cis guys but these take time, getting to know people and becoming comfortable with them, knowing that they are totally on-board with my own gender. In a sex-party environment, knowing that everyone is on the same page is totally necessary for me to feel like I want to fuck. The chances of this actually nice environment actually happening are greater if cis gendered guys are excluded.

    I do know think that a mixture of different format sex-parties would actually be most beneficial as I too feel weird about most of what I’ve written above, knowing as I do many awesome sexy cis guys and trans guys with nice queer sensibilities if not identities.

    Perhaps in the longer term, as many clubs do, vetting processes can take place through different events and invite only party lists are formed to create the most positive environment. Certainly many of the people that I have spoken to on this topic so far do not have concerns about genital configuration so much as behaviour, attitude and atmosphere, that’s certainly the case for me.

  • anon says:

    Like another poster, I wouldn’t mind if people were upfront with their sexual preferences. That is: if someone is into penis he might not be into pre-op trans men. That’s honesty to me. What disgusts me about said “All but cis men” parties is the hypocrisy. You can’t have your cake and eat it too–
    What about the trans women you pretend to invite? And obviously every trans guy who goes to such a party will out himself as trans. Ever thought about that?
    And the misguided belief that a place will be more safe if there were no cis men. Have you seen the rape numbers for lesbian relationships lately? They are about the same as rape in straight relationships. I have known more lesbians who were raped, abused or stalked by their partners than straight women. Also, there are trans guys who are violent.
    “Diet coke men”- that’s just priceless!!

  • I totally agree with you, but it makes absolutely no sense to talk about this and not mention how it effects trans women once. The whole culture of fetishizing (harmfully, of course, don’t misunderstand me) trans men is directly connected to transphobic misogyny and how that operates in [cis] women and “trans” community creation. So many queer trans women do not feel welcome within queer communities and i thinks it’s best if we center their concerns over how we feel when we are [stupidly] sent up a special invitation to be the drooled upon ‘special menz’ at some space.
    i also disagree with you about socialization, because forcing trans people into a paradigm of cis ideas around socialization is never going to work. I may be more feminist than your average cis man (maybe…maybe not), but it certainly has nothing to do with being assigned female and having to navigate a world that partially thought that was true sometimes, a process that was definitely damaging to my mental health and sense of self. I do not recognize “being more highly evolved” (yeah, right) as some sort of fringe benefit to a system that created and continues to foster transphobia.
    Somewhat unrelatedly, a door policy either literally at a play party or more informally in social scenes is pretty much a lot of what i think is wrong with cis queers. It presumes a trans person will be willing and/or able to disclose trans status to obtain access, and it thus forces a “disclosure is best” ideology on trans people.
    I also think you are letting trans men off pretty easy here. Many women’s communities (and colleges, and etc) were sort of forcibly managed to include men when the ‘hordes’ (said half jokingly) of people previously asssumed or identified as female who have since affirmed a male identity contained certain percentages of men who refused to leave these communities. Rest assured a play party that saw itself changed from women only (often unfriendly at the least towards trans women, or so they’ve told me) to no cis men was partially to do with men who wouldn’t leave the spaces AND policies that changed themselves around “hott bois” in the early to mid 2000s continuing to today.
    If our brothers refuse to be accountable for the space we take up we won’t correctly see the problem.

  • Humanoid says:

    To clarify to anon, when talking about safe spaces I wasn’t referring to physical safety per-say more along these lines http://londonfreeschool.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/safer-space-policy-ssp-of-the-london-free-school-or-a-welcome-note-to-try-to-make-everyone-feel-as-comfortable-and-safe-as-possible/

    I agree with the poster above about the harmful effects of fetishizing certain identities and agree that it is a huge problem but would also add that this fetishization would be the reason why some queer identified trans women and trans guys would not want to be in a sexual space with cis gendered guys. Not that cis guys are the only people who can fetishize people or be clueless, inappropriately sexual, violent, etc but we can’t ignore the overwhelming evidence that much of the violence (of all types) against members of our community and in general is perpetrated by cis guys of all sexualities.

    I didn’t take this invitation as an invitation to drool at teh special menz or be drooled at, rather I took it as an invitation to be sexual in a space with other people a bit like me and without the one group that actually in the first instance I’m pretty wary of regardless of my own gender expression. I really value ‘no cis men’ spaces and definitely think the option should be there, I also really value ‘no cis gendered’ spaces. And on behalf of my friends I definitely do value the queer spaces previously created by those running the party in question where cis men have been welcome despite the fact that I have felt unable to attend because of this.

    I’m not sure I agree that the socialisation thing is entirely a red herring. Being raised as female or male somehow granting mystical insight is nonsense I agree. But I do think (hello patriarchy) that being raised male and being comfortable with that identity can bring a certain sense of entitlement and privilege that to be honest I want to be damn damn sure that someone has ironed out for themselves before I really even hang out with them much less expose my nekkid queery-bod to them.

    I think it’s transition, gender queerness, intersexyness, however it manifests, that gives at least some expectation of a basis for compassionate understanding and acceptance for other TQI bodies.which for me is the main issue with sexual spaces. Not that cis gendered people cannot or do not have this awareness and not that all tTQI people are perfect but if I’m working the odds I’d rather deal with a few schrodingers clueless cats than a whole hoard of them.

    • I feel I have just as much in common with queer cis women as I would queer cis men (which varies to not at all). Trying to impose a “no cis men” rule would be essentialist anyway, because it would assume a line could be drawn between cis men and trans men and also between feminine nonbinary gendered CAMAB trans people and cis men. There is no way to police that. So, like the OP said, it’s probably better in the long run for spaces to organize around anti-oppression ideals versus body parts and identities.
      If you are familiar with the organization NOLOSE, they wrestled with this question for years and have come to the conclusion that a no cis men policy is oppressive with regards to trans people and our bodies and identities. Their very eloquent explanation can be found here: http://www.nolose.org/11/genderpolicy.php

      I am a trans man who will not attend any event, play party, party, organization, conference, et al with a no cis man policy. I’m overjoyed that NOLOSE has changed their policy because I finally feel I’d be welcome to go and not have to have my trans status (I am post medical transition) be outted to such a huge degree. Pre medical transition I did

      Also, I don’t think it does any good to continue flashing marginalized cis men the idea that their cis male status means they have nothing to add or contribute to space organized around gender-inclusive queerness.

  • Humanoid says:

    I know that I didn’t say anywhere that cis guys have nothing to contribute to queer spaces and I certainly don’t believe that to be true in fact I’m deeply involved with a queer activist group that represents all queer people regardless of sexuality, trans or cis status. Noone as far as I’m aware is attempting to but blanket rules in place for all queer spaces. Are you I wonder against trans only spaces? I know that I have found them essential at various points in my life. I identified for a long time as a trans guy, more recently as genderqueer and I would remind you that trans people/queer community are not all part of some hive mind. Some trans folk prefer not to go to sex parties where there are cis gendered men for various reasons. NOLOSE decided what was right for their group as other trans and queer groups can decide what is right for them. The organisers of this sex party have also wrestled with these considerations for many year and have decided that a variety of policies for different sex parties. As a trans guy particularly I felt incredibly uncomfortable in sexual spaces with cis guys that I wasn’t familiar with for the reasons I’ve given and I am glad that there is finally a space that I can be in that does make me feel comfortable and unthreatened. I really don’t think this is an either or thing, I think it’s a horses for courses thing. Clearly we both feel very differently about this, I say vive la difference.

  • Humanoid says:

    Yikes just to correct myself… I don’t know if the organisers of this party have in fact decided anything as a longer term strategy, sorry I’m not speaking on their behalf and shouldn’t be putting words into their mouths.

  • J McK says:

    I think this kind of thing is gross, but it helps to try and understand the thinking behind it. Personally, I reckon it’s a bit like lesbian biphobia in that – while it still persists – the real rationale behind it has long evaporated, and half-baked emotional excuses are created to fill that logical void. It all seems (to this observer) to have something to do with the psychosocial debris from second-wave feminist thought on “safe space” and the myriad ways in which that space might be “raped”.

    The same mindsets can also be very harmful to us on the MtF spectrum, but not in this case. Here it seems that the attitude has been corrected with regard to MtF-spectrum people but not with regard to male-presenting people. Sucks.

  • annalytica says:

    Thank you CN for writing this and to all the commenters for adding your thoughts. As someone involved in organising safe queer spaces it’s really helpful to know what different perspectives people have on admissions policies. If you wouldn’t mind indulging my curiosity, I’d be interested to know how you’d feel about an event that was open to women and genderqueer people, but not to anyone who identifies exclusively as male, whether trans or cis. Would that make sense as an admissions policy, or would it be asking genderqueer people to draw too sharp a line around their identities?

    • cnlester says:

      Hmmm…I’m probably not the best person to ask when it comes to this, for two reasons:

      1) Ideologically, I don’t personally (and I know this isn’t the same for everyone) support the idea of creating any spaces that deny entry based on the “what” of a person rather than the “who” – I can’t square that with the fact that my core belief is in the shared humanity of the “who” and the individual, secondary nature of the “what” – if you get my drift.

      2) Specifically in terms of safe spaces…the majority of transphobic cruelty I’ve received has been from cis queer women who considered themselves aware, feminist and politically correct. I’m all for creating a safe space of shared values and ideology – letting people know in advance what the rules are (no misgendering, no grabbing etc.) and asking for an RSVP for example. But I wouldn’t be convinced that a women and genderqueer only event would guarantee that it would be safe for all genderqueer and trans people there.

      3) For me (again, this is just personal) – being asked to an event for genderqueer people and women would not sit well with being genderqueer. But other people might love it.

      And, again – thanks everyone for sharing, and being respectful. It’s been really interesting and, hopefully, helpful to read all the different opinions here.

      CN x

  • anon says:

    “but we can’t ignore the overwhelming evidence that much of the violence (of all types) against members of our community and in general is perpetrated by cis guys of all sexualities.”

    Ok, two points:

    1. Violence perpetrated by cis guys. You’ve got to be kidding me- I remember only too well the physical violence perpetrated by many cis women/lesbians against trans women during the 1980s. I’m talking about kicking down flights of stairs and such things. All under the label of “safe spaces”.

    2. “our” community. Who exactly is “we” here? And who gets to decide who is part of “our” community? If you don’t see the inherent violence in such in-group style thinking, read a book about female (socialized) expressions of violence sometime. Think about what you mean when you say “safe space” and “our community”.

    I’m not even going into the years long bullying that I experienced from female groups for being too boyish and later from lesbians for dating boys. Only some years ago, several transgender and intersex people were physically attacked at so-called “safe space” women/lesbian/queer/trans* events I helped organize. Every time by cis women under the label of “feminism” or “bad male energy”. (At another “safe” queer/women event, a cis woman was raped by a cis women- but the police wasn’t called and the victim was silenced. Because police is part of the patriarchy – or something.)

    I’m totally done with that type of event. I prefer to go to places where there is a certain risk involved – like everywhere in life – but nobody pretends it’s “safe space” and then kicks you.

  • It’s interesting to look at this in light of what Julia Serano and others have written about trans misogyny. In certain contexts, men too risk being objectified and reduced to cartoonish stereotypes based on assessments of their genitals. That’s insulting to all men, not simply because it objectifies them but also because it denies the wide variety of different ways men like to express themselves sexually (and which many – both trans and cis – are loathe to admit because they think they need to ‘perform’ a certain way to uphold their right to male identities).

  • TW says:

    I think there are two simultaneous political strands working here (as J McK aludes to) – there is the community-building strand that says oppressed groups should stand together, and there is the individualist, anti-prejudice strand that says that we do not judge people on their genitals (or skin colour, etc) but only judge them on their statements and actions.

    For me, at least, the latter is the real aim, a world without prejudice. The former is an interim tool for achieving that.

    I like CN’s advocacy of safe spaces based on principles not genitals. But for the moment I can see the value of creating spaces that are only open to people who share a certain experience. However, I would like to see those spaces used as places to support, relax and recuperate in a (hopefully) unthreatening environment, with political debates primarily taking place in an open space, because 1) political debates should be robust and direct, and political coalition-building needs losers, and so is probably incompatible with complete inclusiveness, and 2) cis guys may well have valuable contributions to make to such debates.

  • […] thought I’d said everything I felt like saying about inclusion/exclusion in queer spaces based on assigned birth sex last November – but a couple of brilliant pieces […]

  • […] urge you to have a read: Feministing here and here, Lipstick Terrorist here, and my own thoughts here and here. I would absolutely say that someone who calls themselves a lesbian making an exception […]

  • […] more accurate, as is transgender or genderqueer.) It’s not only that I’m feeling for the trans men who are not being understood/read/desired as men, though that is definitely part of it, too. It’s also not the possibility that they may […]

  • K says:

    As a trans masculine person I must say I disagree with this post 100%. I suggest you distinguish between respecting someone’s gender identity and refusing to distinguish between people of different birth sexes or between trans and cis people. Simply referring to birth sex in any context or responding to it any way whatsoever does not amount to defining someone by it or invalidating their gender identity.

    Plenty of trans men and trans masculine people feel completely comfortable being included in spaces where cis men are excluded, because we realize we’re not the same as them. We’re not all cis assimilationists and we don’t all want to be treated as interchangeable with cis men. E.g. I feel comfortable with it and Dean Spade has advocated for the inclusion of trans men and trans masculine people in what are currently called ‘Women’s Colleges’ (in the U.S.), but not the inclusion of cis men.

    Also, please stop sexuality policing. Please stop conflating sexual (non-)attraction to groups individuated by sex, gender identity or gender expression with respect or love for them, or with acknowledgement of their gender identity. I am attracted to other trans masculine people, not because I fetishize them (whatever that means), but because I’m a same-sex attracted person. This is not my politics, this is not a manifestation of my belief that people’s genders are fixed by their birth sexes (I do not hold such a belief), and it’s not me defining people by their biology or their socialization: this is my innate, stable sexual orientation, a part of my personality, and something that makes up a part of my identity, and I sincerely ask that you stop attacking it because you want my sexuality to conform to your mistaken norms about political activism.

  • Basil Soper says:

    I am highly opposed to the distinction. The distinction really creates an idea that trans men are not “the same as cis men” and cis men are “bad”. I frankly, want to be seen as the same as a cis guy. That’s my whole goal actually.. passing as a bi cis man. This idea is othering at least and can also excuse trans men who do fucked up stuff sometimes. Also, if a cis man identifies as queer they should be allowed in spaces, any man should.

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