I have gone through some major identity mutations recently. I have come to the reluctant conclusion that trans-feminine gender voyagers are not entirely accepted in the lesbian and dyke cultures. If I identify as trans girl, most of progressive san francisco will accept that. Paradoxically, I encounter the most resistance in lesbian and dyke communities. It is as though the gender split is so fundamental to the traditional lesbian narrative, that the idea of a man ‘becoming’ a woman is preposterous. The younger generation of self identified dykes are more committed to the queer agenda of inclusiveness, but unease still haunts our interactions. The transsexual narrative (which I distinguish from the transgender or genderqueer narrative) would label this behavior as transphobic. They would say that trans femmes are banned from the Michigan Womyn’s Festival and other womyn spaces because of transphobia. I think this obscures they point. Just because someone does not accept your gender identification, that does not mean the have a phobia. I have never met a trans-phobic lesbian or dyke, but I have met and heard of many, many male-phobic lesbians who identify me as male in regardless of my transgender identity.
1) I base this partly on talks with ex-lesbians. A. told me that she used to sit around and talk with other lesbians about how repellent the male body was. She secretly missed a flesh dick. At one point, a friend confided that she missed dick, especially when she was menstruating. A. was delighted to have someone to confide in. It was taboo in her community to say something like that. She said that she used to resent guys partly because she was attracted to them. Being bisexual was not a possibility. Her community did not accept bisexuality. “If you slept with a guy you were kind of leaving the team.” She also said “dykes just want to fuck dykes. You are a man to them.”
2) Another contact D. has identified as queer for one year, but she identifies as bisexual. She said that if a girl is chatting her up and she says she is bi she gets dropped. She told me “They do not believe in bisexuality. They think that you are just confused. They think you are realy straight.” So it seems it seems that in the lesbian and dyke narratives, there are two possibilities: gay or straight. If you sleep with guys you are straight. Some commentators call this bi-phobia. Again, I do not see this as a phobic reaction towards bi girls and straight girls. I think it is second order male-phobia. It is a distrust of any girl who has sex with males. This is the homo/hetero binary.
3) This sucks for femmes who have to cut off their long hair so that they do not look ‘straight.’ You have to dress in a way to prove that you are not straight, and by extension bi. There is a social pressure for girls to choose a side. I met two girls who were frustrated to tears by this. “I love my long hair. I do not want to dress like a boy.” J. told me that every femme he knows, cut off their hair when they moved to San Francisco.
4) Dykes do fuck guys. But they seem to keep it quiet. A. said she knows lots of Butches who pick guys up in bars and fuck them up the ass with a strap-on. I do not know how open they are about it. A. is safe to tell because she is not part of that community anymore. I can imagine though that it is not shameful as long as the guy does not fuck them.
5) I have had sexual encounters with dykes while I was identifying as a trans girl. A common theme was that I did not get the benefit of the doubt. I had to constantly prove that I was not a ‘guy.’ There was a phobic reaction that could be triggered easily. I felt that I had to pass gender tests continually. Do I fuck like a girl? Do I listen like a girl? Do I kiss like a girl? Is my body too hairy? Can they really trust me or am I deceiving them? Each of them seemed to have their fingers on the emergency release button, ready to abruptly end contact at any sign of doubt.
6) One girl just wanted a hookup. She wanted dick, but she found male bodies unattractive. She wanted me to fuck her like a guy does, and she wanted me to adore her body, but she could not adore mine. She could not do that with a male body. After we had sex she wanted me to leave soon afterwords. Sex was separate from intimacy. No one had ever done that with me before. I felt like a sex worker, only I had not been paid. A., the ex-lesbian, confirmed that she had done this too when she first started fucking guys. “thank you, now get out!” She had thought that guys just wanted sex anyway. She wanted to fuck guys. She did not want any intimacy with them. She thought that many lesbians and dykes did the same thing (in secret of course). They used guys for sex. If they want intimacy they have other women. Guys are sexual objects.
7) I had been viewing dykes as my dating pool, and had been frustrated by the disconnect between the huge amount of sexual flirtation that I received, and the difficulty of getting dykes or lesbians to treat me as a legitimate dating partner. I was also frustrated by how women would seem very interested as long as no other dykes were looking. Everything falls in place if I accept A.’s statement that dykes view me as a man. My identification as a woman does not mean enough in that community. Even if a woman is willing to accept me as femme, is her community going to view her as a traitor as a man-fucker? What does fucking me say about her position in the the homo/hetero binary?
8) I decided that ‘this way lies madness.’ I tried identifying as trans-dyke for about 3 months. I have sworn it off. I feet that that route just led towards internalizing male-phobia and towards self hate. It is similar to the issue of being a person of color and buying into a dominant narrative that devalues you.