As previously illustrated by the many editions of this column, there seems to be an endless supply of negative stereotypes against sapphic women. However, something I have not previously addressed the unique challenges faced by sapphic women who are also transgender and thus not only have to deal with harmful stereotypes about their sexual orientation but their gender identity as well.
First, it is important to understand why trans women in particular face harsh criticism for seeking relationships with other women. This criticism comes from society’s idea of what is an “acceptable” trans woman. We may be quicker to accept a trans woman if she exhibits “traditional femininity,” which includes having a “female-looking” body and facial features, wearing feminine clothing and yes, dating men, because society considers heterosexuality to be vital to proper gender performance. A trans woman who is also attracted to women is already breaking one of these rules, so she is more likely to be harshly judged for her actions than her cisgender counterparts.
This anger and judgment towards trans women often results in some incorrect and often harmful stereotypes. Sapphic trans women, particularly trans lesbians, are often seen as being deceptive or being “men in disguise” who are looking to fool women into sleeping with them by pretending to be women. This is a clearly transphobic statement. A trans woman is not fooling anyone by expressing her desired gender identity and she is certainly not being deceptive or malicious by seeking women as partners if that is what she is interested in.
Similarly, a trans woman who does not initially tell her female partner about her gender identity is once again not being deceptive. She may be self-conscious or afraid of being judged or rejected due to the negative stigma that surrounds trans women, or she simply does not want to give her gender identity away because she does not think it is particularly important. These are perfectly valid reasons not to immediately reveal gender identity and are not malicious in nature.
I bring this last point up because unfortunately, the stereotype of the predatory or “fake” trans woman continues to run rampant in both straight and queer communities. In the case of queer communities, distaste for sapphic queer women often comes from some lesbian communities who associate “men” with “anyone who currently or used to have a penis,” which of course excludes trans women and even worse, automatically assumes trans women are actually men.
These beliefs are of course incredibly damaging, but they also present a basic misunderstanding of what it means to be a woman, and it means to be attracted to women. A trans woman’s womanhood is never defined by her body or her genitals, and her sexuality is certainly not defined by these things either. And being attracted to women is not about being attracted to bodies, it is being attracted to womanhood, which is something far deeper and more important than genitalia. Once we acknowledge these things, it is more difficult to see a trans woman’s attraction to women as something malicious or something that needs to be proved, and far easier to view sapphic trans women as having unique struggles but remaining an equal and important part of the queer community.
Delaney Murray is a freshman studying journalism with a focus in news and information at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have you been a victim of nonbinary stereotypes? Let Delaney know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting her at@delpaulinem.