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Joseph Kaminski

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September 24, 2017

The Gender of Sexuality and How Not Feeling Attraction Towards Trans Individuals is NOT Transphobia


When two individuals go on a date, it is mutually assured that the objective of the interaction is most likely to enter the world of romance in some way, shape, or form. Immediate characteristics of the two individuals are immediately noticed by each other – are they significantly overweight, is their hair clean, etc. ‘Males’ and ‘females’ alike begin to look for key characteristics that they find attractive.

These details could range from height and weight to hair and eye colour. These characteristics come from social norms and personal opinions. For the most part, these are not considered outlandish; a woman has the right to feel attracted and/or aroused to a male specimen who happens to be taller just as a male has the right to feel more attracted to a woman who has brown hair. Some may find it childish or rude that others may keep their dating life strictly within their romantic requirements, but the point remains that everyone – man, woman, or in-between, gay, bi, or straight –  has the right to do so.

The ‘gender’ of a person is, whether it be subconsciously considered or not, quite an important matter when it comes to the whole romantic equation of dating; and it isn’t limited to whether someone comes off as ‘male’ or ‘female’, but continues to whether some individual passes through their specific thoughts on the whole ‘masculinity vs femininity’ spectrum.

Sex is typically experienced and expressed through the whole biology factor in our modern age, but it is heavily affected and influenced by factors that extend past the ‘genitals’ that one is born with. Who an individual finds attractive goes further than ‘natural urges’ of reproduction, but whether or not one is attractive – whether it be through personality or looks or ‘gender’ – to the person in question.

On the most primitive level, sex can be strictly based on biology and nothing else. As one looks into the depths of the matter, however, it becomes quite clear that both biological and social influences affect what one man or woman may consider “sexually appealing”. Using biological terminology, people may consider their sexuality to be rooted in reproduction. However, the act of ‘sex’ itself is split into two distinct categorizations: that of sexual behaviour and sexual desire.

Sexual behaviour would refer to how people engage in these sexual acts, revolving around both the initial intercourse but finding itself relating back to the whole ‘dating’ thing – that of ‘wooing’, social interaction, and seduction…the acts that lead up to and matter quite a bit to whether or not a sexual act occurs. Sexual desire, or more commonly-referred to as ‘lust’, would refer to the motivation of sexual behaviour. To some, this may be the subconscious biological urge to reproduce and, as my former Psychology instructor would put it, “spread their seed as far as they possibly could”. To others, however, this relates to a form of communicating feelings to one another on a more personal level. Either way, both of these groups of people would have their sexualities rooted in both the behaviour and the desire of it all.

People engage in sex even when they do not intend to reproduce. They have sex for fun, as a way to communicate their feelings, and as a way to satisfy their egos. [1] 

This brings us to the topic of gender itself, perhaps the most important and overthought dimension of sexuality and sexual acts. Gender is more than sex, unbeknownst to the conservatives and traditionalists who prove to be anti-rights time and time again. Gender goes much further than just the “what’s between your pants is who you are” factor that Republicanism has pushed for in recent years. It is perhaps the fault of society itself that we witness ‘gender’ as a form of ‘biological sex.’

Think of it this way: when you’re walking down the road or people watching in the grocery store, you have no clear way to identify someone based solely on their biological sex. If you claim you do, then it is almost certain that you should be arrested for invasion of privacy, sexual deviancy, or situational rape. You have no ability to see the genitals (the biological “thing between your pants” that is classified as ‘sex’) of random people on the street. At least, I’d hope you wouldn’t have that ability.

People believe they can know that an individual is either man or woman through physical examination when this is simply not the case. What you see instead is the ‘gender’ that is communicated from and through features and constructs. We see people through the social norms that have become accustomed to our every-day way of thought. That brings back into limelight the whole ‘masculinity vs femininity’ concept. You do not and cannot notice if someone has a penis or a vagina on the streets (in most situations); you can however judge someone based on the masculinity or femininity of an individual.

You notice clothing choices, jawlines, makeup, and other accessories. If a woman was wearing a binder and was dressed in male jeans, a hoodie with their favorite sports team logo dawning the chest, and a backwards baseball cap that barely covered their shortened hair…many on the streets would not think twice. What they see is male, and in most situations what they would think of is, well, ‘male’. Of course, this is not a generalization that lumps every instance into one; as with everything else, there are exceptions and limitations to this train of thought. The point moves forward.

I do believe it is important to note that this is all based on a society. This ‘gender’ is based on social characteristics that is only partially dependable on the biological sex factor. We view our pets and other animals as ‘male’ or ‘female’ on a sexual scale just like we would view each other, but it seems as if only humans can be properly described via their ‘gender’.

sex-vs-gender

For the most part, people like having sex. Of course, there are the self-proclaimed asexuals (those who are without sexual feelings) and those who may have become uninterested in sex due to a tragedy in their past. With the desire to have sex, though, comes the importance of attraction and arousal. The aforementioned “attractions” that individuals would have upon their mind very much matter to the whole scheme of sexual desires. If one is not attracted to the other, then the act of sex is (for the most part) either initially unwanted or very unenjoyable.

We tend to view sexuality as “oh, this individual enjoys men” or “oh, this individual enjoys women”. Instead, take a step back and pinpoint exactly what someone’s type is. In our society, it is a very harsh generalization to claim a woman would have relations with any man regardless of ‘type’ or personality; and it is a slightly less harsh generalization to claim a man would have relations with any woman regardless of ‘type’ or personality.

Perhaps one woman’s sexual attraction isn’t jut “men” but “men with blonde hair who enjoy partying”, since that is more in-line with her dating history and personal desires. Another woman’s sexual attraction might be a “spiritual man who is family oriented…and being on the tall side doesn’t hurt his chances of being with me”. A third woman’s sexual attraction might be “nerdy female who likes the same philosophical books as me”.

Perhaps another’s sexual attraction is strictly personality based, where it doesn’t matter if their partner is biologically male, biologically female, masculine gendered, or effeminate gendered…but rather as an individual whom has a personality that perfectly clicks with that of the individual at hand.

One female may be straight, and be unable to personally feel attraction towards either females that share her biological genitals or men who showcase a feminine gender. One male may be homosexual, and be unable to personally feel attraction towards either females that don’t have the body-type and biological sex that he is sexually interested in. One may be bisexual and feel attraction to both biological sexes and/or sociological genders, but they may lean in the direction of one or the other – this could be because of either personal preference or social norms. One may be pansexual and be able to feel attraction towards literally anyone if they have a personality that clicks…or they may be equally interested in any form of ‘genital’.

These personal definitions matter greatly to someone’s attraction towards someone, even more so than the examples of eye and hair colour that I began this article with.

Now me pose you a simple question: if a straight, cisgendered (denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth/biological sex) male completely supported LGBT+ rights, openly endorsed LGBT+ rights, and fought for LGBT+ rights all while acknowledging the existence of LGBT+ people and agreeing with the LGBT+ lifestyle on every level….but personally did not feel any attraction whatsoever to his own sex on both a biological and gendered level…

Is he homophobic?

The answer is simple. No, he is not.

The definition of homophobia is simple: the dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people. In the situation described, the man completely supports homosexual people; and not in a way that is “I don’t support your lifestyle but I support your right as a person to do it”. Consider it more of a “I support your lifestyle and your right as a person to do it, but I personally can’t see myself as a member of the LGBT+ community simply because I am not sexually attracted to another man”. The first statement might be considered ‘moral homophobia’, while the second is absolutely not.

This is not relating to social norms, but instead relating to the personal preferences of an individual…the very same personal preferences that relate on the other side of things to how a gay individual may feel. The gay individual has every right to feel an attraction to another man just as the straight individual has every right to feel an attraction to a woman, or just as much as the straight individual has every right to not personally feel attraction to another man.

I now translate this exact same argument into the transgendered community.

In recent days, popular YouTuber and LGBT activist Riley J. Dennis tweeted the following:

Dennis, Riley J. (RileyJayDennis). “my argument: “maybe your preference for women with vaginas over women with penises is, to some degree, influenced by our cissexist society.” 12 July 2017, 12:22 AM. Tweet.

Take the original situation used for discussing whether or not this individual would be homophobic and put it in perspective of trans-people of any kind. The definition of transphobia is very similar to homophobia in its literal definition, and it is as follows: the intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

Is he transphobic?

The answer is still simple. No, he is not.

I must admit, sexual attraction is socially influenced on a “gender” level, but that doesn’t mean it can be changed on a sexual one. Going as far as to trying to reduce the explanation of sexual desire and attraction to a simple “social construct” is biologically ridiculous. A straight individual can be pro-trans-rights but not want to personally date or have sexual relations a trans individual. If such a ‘straight man’ can let a trans person live, a trans person can let the ‘straight man’ live.

The same YouTuber mentioned made a video discussing the attractions as nothing more than “discriminatory preferences”. She also made a second video discussing how genital preferences are ‘transphobic’. In the second video mentioned, Riley states the following:

“They [lesbians] say that my language sounds a lot like a dude who tried to turn them straight or like conversion therapy. Those responses are rooted in cissexism. This is because I’m not telling lesbians that they can’t be lesbians. If you’re a woman who only likes women, go ahead, identify as a lesbian! But some women have penises. And if the fact that some lesbians might be attracted to those women offends you, it’s because you don’t think trans women are real women. That’s because these accusations of homophobia make it sound like I’m trying to convince lesbians to like men, but I’m not. I’m trying to show that preferences for women with vaginas over women with penises might be partially informed by the influence of a cissexist society. You do not have to like men. You do not have to date men or have sex with men. And if you think that’s what I’m arguing, you’re simultaneously strawmanning my argument and implying trans women are men.” [2]

Riley Dennis

Riley Dennis, @RileyJayDennis.

I don’t personally believe Riley Dennis is trying to convince lesbians to like men, but I do believe she doesn’t implement the attractions of individuals into her ideology. There is a difference between biological sex and the sociological ‘gender’ that everyone has. As I’ve written in this piece, being attracted to someone can be rooted in either the biological sex or the social gender that exists.

Of course there are some people who would state that “trans women aren’t real women”, mostly because they still have the biological sex of a male. When it comes to gender, they are ‘real women’. When it comes to sex, that is where many arguments come around. The ‘lesbians’ that Riley seems to be discussing are those who personally wouldn’t date a trans woman because they themselves are not interested in the male genitals. This roots back to the laws of attraction discussed here and in countless ‘gender and sexuality’ textbooks that I’ve researched over the years.

Riley essentially summarizes this as “genitalifying” (objectifying someone through genitals) others; but, I see it instead as having preferences rooted in sexual and/or gendered norms. She carries on by stating that these preferences exist specifically and only because we were raised with them and developed them over time…and that they can be ‘hard to get rid of’. This calls in the whole ‘nature vs nurture’ debate. Many, including myself, believe that being gay is something that one can be in fact born as. If that is the case, then it should work in the opposite: one can be born straight. If this is the case, then this biological preference isn’t discriminatory, but merely just another ‘option’ that the mankind machine has programmed into birth.

She compares people who wouldn’t date someone who’s ‘trans’ to people who wouldn’t date someone else who is ‘black’ or ‘fat’. Only one of these three have any roots in the whole nature vs nurture debate, and only one of them has anything to do with the sexuality vs gender spiel that I wrote on earlier. The other two are discriminatory to an extent, as they relate back to the whole ‘external characteristic’ way of feeling attraction that I opened the article with. I’ll let you, the readers, figure out which word belongs in which category.

I end this article on a simple concept: sex is not gender, and gender is not sex. They work together in some situations and are individually recognized in others, but they remain two distinctly different parts to an identity. Preferences towards either exist in our society, and it feels as if some people, like Riley Dennis, have merged the two concepts to create a discriminatory feature that just isn’t sociologically acceptable. By criticizing Dennis’s comments, I am not “strawmanning an argument and implying that trans women are men”, but merely supporting the nature vs nurture style of preference that exists in both the characterizations of sexuality and gender in society.

Read more: The Postmodernization of Sex, Gender, and HIV
Book Review: A History of the Wife

[1] Rutter, Virginia, and Pepper Schwartz. The Gender of Sexuality. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000. Page 2

[2] JustinDennisYT. YouTube. November 24, 2016. Accessed August 05, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X-PgHSZh6U.

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