SSexual attraction, it seems obvious to me, is not the right frontier on which to focus the fight against racism. Anyone who’s used a dating app will know that whether to swipe left or right is invariably determined by snap judgments based on a handful of photos and lines. Of course, this is an arena in which societal prejudice plays out.
But whether or not we’re attracted to someone is so personal that castigating someone’s dating preferences is wrong. The growing number of interracial relationships is a sign of a less racist society, but these relationships are the healthy by-product of broader changes in societal attitudes, not of activists urging people to be more pluralistic in their choice of life. partner.
If controlling people’s sexual preferences through the lens of race sounds deeply distasteful, when it comes to sexual orientation, it’s wrong and dangerous. Yet we are in an extraordinary position where lesbians are now being told by some activists that it is bigoted for them to say they are not attracted to trans women who are biologically male. It’s not a fringe belief: the chief executive of LGBT charity Stonewall recently said of a BBC article about lesbians feeling pressured to let go of their boundaries: “Sexuality is personal. .but if, when you date, you dismiss whole groups like people of color or trans people, it’s worth considering how social bias may have shaped your attraction.Last week, a QC from the committee of Law Society Ethics championed the concept of overcoming the “cotton ceiling” – the offensive idea that a lesbian’s lack of desire for trans women is rooted in bigotry rather than their attraction to the same gender – and compared it to initiatives to promote racial integration in post-apartheid South Africa.
That some make it clear to women that they are transphobic or akin to “sexual racists” for excluding all men from their dating pool is deeply disturbing. For many same-sex attracted lesbians, the right to say no to all men literally defines their sexuality. Lesbophobia remains a huge problem in a world torn apart by men’s rights, in which there is perhaps nothing more subversive than a woman being clear that she is not attracted to men, period. . For centuries, lesbians have been persecuted for their sexual orientation, attacked for not trying hard enough to be attracted to men, and subjected to abhorrent practices such as corrective rape.
Sensitive issues are at stake. Some trans women who are attracted to women speak openly about the issues of finding a post-transition partner: how it can remove you from the dating pool of many heterosexual women, but that doesn’t mean that same-sex attracted women start to find you attractive. It’s not easy to deal with, but I suspect many trans women wouldn’t dream of criticizing lesbians who aren’t attracted to any men.
However, there are very vocal activists – some trans, some not – who seek to challenge what they see as female-only lesbian attraction bigotry in the name of trans rights. That’s how the cotton cap – and a lesbian’s right to call it a coercive device to shame same-sex attracted women into compromising their boundaries – came to the fore in an employment tribunal. extremely important currently underway.
The lesbian in question is Allison Bailey, a black survivor of child sexual abuse who overcame much adversity to become a criminal lawyer. His law firm, Garden Court, told him to delete two tweets they said did not meet the bar’s professional standards, one of which described a workshop on “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling” held in Canada in 2012 as coercive.
Cotton Ceiling is a reference to lesbian panties. It’s a riff on the glass ceiling and posits that just as the career advancement of women is hindered by sexism, the sexual acceptance of trans women is hindered by the “transphobia” of lesbians being attracted only to women. It was Cathryn McGahey QC, a Garden Court witness, who made the analogy between this workshop exploring how “ideologies of transphobia and transmisogyny impact sexual desire” and South African racial integration and who suggested that it was possible to non-coercively persuade a lesbian with same-sex attraction that she might want to have sex with a trans woman.
But shaming an oppressed sexual minority for dropping their boundaries, or risking being tarnished as bigots within the LGBT community, is inherently coercive. You don’t have to look far online to see women who claim to be only attracted to women and are abused as transphobes, genital fetishists and worse. The women say they were banned from dating apps for transphobia after stating in their profile that they were looking for a biologically female partner.
This is an important reason why gender ideology – the belief that gender identity, whether a person identifies as male or female, should replace biological sex in society with respect to sports, single-sex spaces and data collection – has divided people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. Taken to its logical conclusion, it redefines same-sex attraction as attraction to same-sex identity. But this is fiercely opposed by those who say it simply doesn’t align with the lived experience of their own sexuality.
Another flashpoint is the concern that in service of this ideology, adult trans identities are being forced on gender-nonconforming gay children who suffer from gender dysphoria, through hormonal and surgical interventions that have long-term health consequences. Many gay men say they temporarily suffered from gender dysphoria during puberty and an independent review of the care of children with gender dysphoria highlighted how it sometimes resolves naturally and gender identity can be fluid until in their early or mid twenties.
So many analyzes of the gender ideology debate characterize it as a conflict of rights between women and trans people. But there are plenty of trans people who shun gender ideology and some women who embrace it. It’s really a conflict of rights between people who want gender identity to replace biological sex in society and people, especially women, who believe that sex is relevant. In the case of lesbians and same-sex attraction, it is essential to re-establish the principle that it is never bigoted for a woman to be clear that she is exclusively attracted to other women.
Sonia Sodha is a columnist at Observer
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