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In defense of the Cotton Ceiling
Everyone knows as a cisgendered lesbian, I don’t have trans experience which is why I love hearing from friends who happen to be trans about their perspectives on things. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the theory around the Cotton Ceiling and the obvious lies and conflations that the TERF brigade are promoting as a way to enforce their world-view and scare cisgendered lesbians.
I see the concept of the cotton ceiling as a good thing – it’s a good way to help break down bigotry towards the trans community especially in regards to relationships. Trans people have a tough time in regards to sexual matters and dating (largely in part as a result of living in a world that can’t or won’t accommodate them) so having honest, open dialogues with people is a great way to discover what sort of information is being fed into mainstream media about trans people and it creates an opportunity to correct any misconceptions around the trans community.
As with any open dialogue around dating and sexual matters – it presents a double edged sword. We shouldn’t shame people for not being attracted to others because people aren’t obligated to like everyone. On the flipside, generalising an entire community of people as unattractive or not relationship material is unfair to that community especially when you haven’t met everyone within that community. Which is another advantage of using the Cotton Ceiling theory as a way to dispel myths regarding the trans community.
Now before someone says something stupid like “BUUUTTT Rayne! You don’t like cisgendered men! That’s an unfair generalisation!” I get that, I do. Attraction and sexuality aren’t black and white. Attraction isn’t something you can control but lies and misinformation will hinder a persons attraction to another person. I’m not saying that attraction is something you should be able to control or even can control because generally you can’t, I’m saying lies and misconceptions are going to affect your subconscious ability to be attracted to someone.
Obviously assertions that the Cotton Ceiling theory has been designed to teach trans women how to rape cisgendered lesbians is baseless and outright insulting (not to mention it disregards the concept of consensual sexual activity and the existence of heterosexual trans women). As I’ve discussed here and here – TERF ideology and their scaremongering tactics have no basis in rational thought. The TERF brigade has managed to create an entire movement that is completely contradictory to current psychological findings. As discussed here, movements based on appeals to emotions and that uses scare tactics to play on our fears can be successful campaigns unless someone digs a little deeper into the psychology of the movement itself. Instead of reading the literature from the last couple of decades on the trans experience and trans psychology and basing conclusions on facts – the TERF brigade like create facts to back up their preconceived conclusions.
Based on the lies promoted by the TERF community, one can assume that a lot of cisgendered lesbians make blankets statements disregarding trans women as partners based not on a lack of attraction but based on misconceptions and the lies they’ve been told. One can also assume the automatic disregarding of trans people in general as partners stems from a place of fear and/or misunderstanding underpinned by the lies and misconceptions that have made their way into mainstream media.
In talking to a number of cisgendered lesbians who have bought into TERF thinking, one statement is parroted back to me constantly “The Cotton Ceiling is rapey because it forces cisgendered lesbians to have sex with people they don’t want to”. If we look at an analysis of the conference promoting the Cotton Ceiling – it mentions nothing of rape. It mentions nothing of forcible sex with trans women.
If I were to hazard a guess based on the TERF tendency for scare tactics and appeals to emotion – the idea that the Cotton Ceiling will make sex with trans women compulsory is an outright lie on the part of the TERF brigade. If we go back to our original analysis that the Cotton Ceiling was designed to start a dialogue between same sex attracted trans women and cisgendered lesbians as a method to dispel myths and lies – dispelling myths and lies around sexual matters and dating trans women doesn’t mean it will be mandatory to date or fuck anyone. This thought process seemingly stems from the minds of bigots who are terrified of the fact that a trans woman may want to sleep with them (apparently that thought is scary). This is a rather arrogant thought because honestly, who wants to fuck a bigot? It seems that TERF ego means they have a few undeserved tickets on themselves. Newsflash: Bigotry and spreading lies is not sexy.
Being intimate with anyone requires communication but that fact is rarely taught to queer people, there isn’t a lot of information in schools for queer youth about same sex or queer relationships – which is why things such as domestic violence and unhealthy relationships are such a large issue within the wider queer community. If society refuses to acknowledge that non-heteronormative relationships exist – what hope is there to teach people about communicating in non-heteronormative relationships? So it’s understandable that there are quite a number of misconceptions regarding trans people floating around the queer community.
In having conversations with a number of trans women recently I gained a greater insight in TERF thinking. A trans woman who has had dealings with the TERF brigade in the past had this to say:
“They also deny cis lesbians their own identities for sleeping with trans women. They are worse than the patriarchy, actually.” An ironic move coming from the same group of people who want all women (regardless of sexuality) to be political lesbians. TERFs claim to want to protect women (translation: cisgendered lesbians) by how? Aligning themselves with an anti-gay organisation that promotes conversion therapy? That’s throwing the very women they claim to want to protect under the metaphorical bus, all in the pursuit of getting a trans youth expelled from her school.
The above statement is a great indication of the level of elitism and the hypocritical nature of the TERF movement. One simply cannot say they want to “protect women” while policing lesbian identity. Not to mention the fact that promoting the ideal that women can and should change their identity from straight to gay as a political statement while simultaneously aligning with an anti-gay organisation that promotes conversion therapy for gays is disingenuous. This is dangerous to not only the cisgendered lesbians they claim to want to protect but the queer community in general. Promoting the idea that sexuality can be changed and using an organisation that promotes conversion therapy as a tool to change sexuality? TERFs really didn’t think that one through as a means of “protecting women”, now did they?
I made the large mistake of engaging with a cisgendered lesbian on Twitter who likes to parrot TERF statements without actually thinking them through. The entire crux of the very confusing conversation was as follows:
This particular cisgendered lesbian informs me that (you can find the conversation on my Twitter):
- Lesbian equals liking vagina or female bodies.
- She’d date a trans man because he has a female body and a vagina (but would recognise his gender as a “man” but sex as “female” but she wouldn’t call him her boyfriend). I suspect she’s lying because she would only recognise him as female and most likely not treat him as man.
- She recognises trans women as gender = women and sex = male but lesbians still can’t date them because some trans women still have their penises (I have several penises, they live in a big toy draw).
- Lesbian = “no penises only pussy”.
- She’s reduced lesbianism, sexuality and people down to body parts.
- Lesbians can’t date Intersexed people because lesbians don’t like penises (There are many variations of Intersexuality and genetically diverse conditions – she’s met all of them and seen they have penises?).
- According to her if a lesbian says no to dating/sleeping with a trans people and the trans person is upset – that’s “rapey”.
- Lesbian who have sex with trans women are not lesbians.
I’m seeing a few misconceptions from either side of the fence.
1. On the cisgendered lesbian side – there is a surplus of fucking idiots who have no idea about trans people or their experiences or their bodies – who are making decisions about trans peoples experiences and bodies based on the assumption that body parts are the be all end all and that a certain body part defines who you are. Further to the point, that certain sex acts determine your sexuality. Not all trans people can or want to use their genitals – what parts you use and what sex acts you like, have no bearing on how you feel and what you feel towards whom.
2. There are cisgenered lesbians out there who automatically dismiss trans people as partners based on their trans status – that’s transphobia. However there are lesbians out there who will date trans people but may not be interested in a certain person. Or they may not being interested in sex or a relationship with a trans person (or any person), not because of their trans status but for whatever reason, they just aren’t interested in sex or a relationship – that’s not transphobia.
3. There are a few trans people that automatically label disinterested cisgendered lesbians as transphobic without knowing their reasons behind saying no. This is problematic because it may not be entirely accurate. If the cisgendered lesbian has said no to dating/sex based on trans status – go ahead and call them a transphobe because they fucking are. If the cisgendered lesbian generally is open to dating/sex with trans people but for whatever reason not attributed to a person trans status, isn’t interested in dating/sex at the point of asking – not transphobic. Yet again this is a grey area because again – attraction isn’t something you can control. Transphobia comes into play with conscious decisions based on bigotry or lies.
4. Some cisgendered lesbians conflate trans people being upset with getting rejected as “rapey”, they seem to have this idea in their brains that if a trans person asks why they are being rejected – it equates to the trans person pressuring them for sex and equates to sexual harassment or rape. This is fucking stupid and insulting. Granted some trans people may get upset with being told “No” and start harassing the person who said “No” – this is because they’re acting like an arsehole. This should not be used as a generalisation of an entire community. A few arseholes in the trans community does not equate to the entire trans community being creepy arseholes. This is called “the Klan” fallacy which is form of pigeon-holing that stupid people engage in..
There seems to be a mass of miscommunication, lies and assumptions. Cisgendered lesbians like the one I was talking to can’t see the benefits in the Cotton Ceiling because they don’t want to or can’t get passed their own assumptions and bigotry. They can’t seem to see that the Cotton Ceiling is about trans people going “Okay what are the reasons we get for get rejected from sex/dating with the wider community. Are those reasons lies/myths/misconceptions? They are? Okay let’s work on disproving those lies and clear a few things up“.
And at the end of the day – it all comes down to communication. Some people like using their feet in sex (whatever sex means to you) and you don’t see people going “OH I’M NOT GOING TO DATE THEM BECAUSE THEY MIGHT WANT TO USE THEIR FEET AND I’M NOT INTO THAT”. Trans and gender variant people should be extended the same courtesy. Some trans people may or may not like to use their genitals – this is a conversation you need to have with your partner around what they like and what they don’t like in regards to sexual matters.
Let’s stop with the lies and the hatred and start communicating with one and other like fucking adults.
If we assess the current state of western society, cisgendered heterosexuals make up a large percentage of the population – with members of the queer community as outliers on western societies bell curve. This makes gays, lesbians and bisexuals a natural deviation from the mean of sexuality that make up another smaller percentage of the population. The same statement can be applied to gender identity.
When an Intersexed person is born with ambiguous genitalia and a non-standard genetic structure – the sex a doctor will assign at birth is little more than a guessing game. Tests are run, consultations with parents are had and conclusions are met but sometimes the conclusion isn’t concrete, there may no definitive way to determine a binary sex assignment where the child grows up feeling like they’ve been born into the correct body.
So the sex assignment becomes a guessing game, a doctor may place “female” on the birth certificate yet despite being raised as “girl” under societies seemingly compulsive need to divide the world into two via policing gender binaries, an Intersexed person may report an incongruence between their sex assignment and internal gender identity. If we look at Intersexed individuals who may have ambiguous genitalia and diverse genetic structures away from XX and XY – we can posit that gender identity is not only separate to one’s sex assigned at birth but yet another natural deviation from the mean of cisgender.
So how is this any different to trans people feeling like they have been born into the incorrect body due to a incongruence between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity? Indeed due to the heavy gender policing into modern society especially by the TERF brigade – not only are trans people ignored but includes genderqueer, Intersexed and non-gender binary people are as well. All because cisgendered people cannot understand someone having an experience that they themselves will never have.
Ironically it seems that TERF ideology aims to heavily police the gender of the wider population whilst simultaneously screaming that gender itself is nothing more than a social construct that must be eliminated.