Blaire White and Arielle Scarcella don’t want cis people to love trans women

A few months back, Blaire White and Arielle Scarcella had some thoughts to offer on the subject of cis people’s attractions to trans women:

[01:23] ARIELLE: Lesbians are the only orientation that gets attacked for their orientation.

. . .

[03:52] ARIELLE: Can some people be attracted to gender? I don’t think so, because you don’t know somebody’s gender.

. . .

[05:22] BLAIRE: It really does blow my mind – I know we keep talking about it – but it blows my mind: lesbians are the only one that get this.

ARIELLE: Only. It’s so misogynistic and sexist and they don’t realize it.

. . .

[06:25] ARIELLE: It doesn’t mean it’s bad to be a trans woman, it just means you’re different. You’re a different type of woman, and lesbians aren’t necessarily attracted to every type of woman.

BLAIRE: And I don’t want to get too deep into it, but even racial preferences too – and if you want to get even deeper into it, like, having a penis or a vagina is an aesthetic.

. . .

[08:34] BLAIRE: “These angry declarations that they have some absolute right to not want to be with trans women are just misplaced and inappropriate.”

ARIELLE: I hate using this term, but it’s more like rape culture, in this case.

BLAIRE: It is rapey as hell.

ARIELLE: It’s rapey.

BLAIRE: Because first of all, that this all rains down on you, and that fucking sucks.


BLAIRE: And I don’t like that. And other lesbians who are saying that, I don’t like that.

It’s common for trans women like me to be the ones put on the defensive here, accused of holding positions that are plainly unreasonable – positions we actually don’t endorse at all. Blaire and Arielle and others act as though I don’t understand that there are some people who simply aren’t interested in trans women and never will be, or that there are people who are only comfortable with certain sexual acts which trans women can’t be a part of, or that there are people who find no appeal in the idea of a trans partner. I don’t know of anyone who denies these things. The reality is that there’s plenty of common ground between me and Blaire and Arielle on these subjects, and their refusal to recognize that is a way of implicitly placing me outside of some circle of reasonable people.

Blaire and Arielle have so badly misunderstood the quoted tweet that they state this was in reference to lesbians even when the tweet was in a thread specifying that this was about straight men. They also gloss over the preceding tweet reading “Nobody has to be with anyone they don’t want”.

The reason such objections (“angry declarations that they have some absolute right to not want to be with trans women”) are out of place is because nobody is questioning the absolute right of anyone to decide who to have a relationship with. To treat that as what’s in dispute, as if that sovereignty were ever doubted by any of us, is disingenuous and misleading. Blaire and Arielle (and certainly countless other right-wing bloggers) have taken even my agreement with them and treated it as though I were asserting the very opposite.

At the same time, there is a positive case to be made in favor of examining one’s preferences toward trans women as partners over not examining one’s preferences. That case can be made solely in terms of benefits toward cis people and not just the interests of trans people. It is a fact that there are cis people who, at one point, considered trans women to be personally undesirable as partners, but over time did come to change their view of us as potential partners for some reason or another. Like many, maybe they simply didn’t know much about us, or had never met one of us, or maybe they had formed their impressions of us based on prevailing cultural stereotypes depicting us as unattractive. But later, they may have gotten to know one of us personally, or learned about us more generally and come to understand us as real individuals. Some people once did not want to date trans women, but now do.

The common misconception of trans women as being “really men” can come to bear on how a person understands and acts on their sexual inclinations. It’s not at all rare to hear ill-informed objections from cis men, like “why would I have sex with another man? I’m not gay”. But individuals can progress in their beliefs and perceptions of who we are – they can grow from once seeing trans women as men to understanding that trans women are women. When that happens, this objection may no longer keep someone’s potential openness toward trans women as partners in check.

This is an area where giving some thought to one’s preferences does come to bear on how a person will choose to include trans women in their sexual life. There is a movable middle here. And this in no way parallels some sort of conversion-like effort at reorienting a person’s fundamental desires – it only means there is a more general factor of trans-accepting attitudes that can also influence personal views on sexuality. Nor does it deny that there are large numbers of people whose dispreference toward trans women as partners is enduring and fixed for various reasons, and is unlikely to shift at all. (Why would I expect this from people for whom it’s simply not possible?)

As you can see, my views on these issues are far less sweeping and reckless compared to how this has been grossly misrepresented by Blaire, Arielle, Laci Green, Tucker Carlson, and others. For that reason, their objections to what I said are far more striking in their triviality. Arguing that cis people have no need to examine how pervasive transphobic attitudes in society may have affected how they view trans women as potential partners means, in practice, arguing that it’s better for a person to remain ignorant in their understanding of their own sexual desires. That’s a hard sell. It would require arguing that a genuine harm is caused by the mere act of thinking, for a moment, about whether one’s sexual attitudes toward trans women may have been informed by cultural norms and stereotypes. This is not Zinnia’s Basilisk. Alternately, one might choose to argue that cis people progressing to a point of accepting trans women as partners is somehow an undesirable outcome. It would mean arguing that more cis people liking us is bad, and that the world would be worse off if more people were attracted to trans women. None of these positions are particularly defensible. Neither is this:

ARIELLE: I hate using this term, but it’s more like rape culture, in this case.

BLAIRE: It is rapey as hell.

ARIELLE: It’s rapey.

This is unnecessary and uncalled for – it’s hard to see how Blaire and Arielle managed to get there from “Nobody has to be with anyone they don’t want”. But it does invite examination of how coercion does come to bear on sexual desires toward trans women.

What’s most off base here is the implication that trans women would somehow be coercing anyone into having relationships with us. If anything, prevailing anti-trans social attitudes serve to coerce men out of having relationships with us and tell men that their attraction to us is wrong. Just listen to the stories of Raquel Willis, or Jen Richards, or just about any trans woman with experience dating men. These women invariably describe having to coach cis men through their own hangups with dating a trans woman – hangups inculcated by a society that often regards us as men and regards the men who sleep with us as “gay”, in direct opposition to their straightforward and honest attraction to our womanhood. There’s nothing coercive about someone clearing out their own barriers to their sexuality such as these.

These attitudes are not doing anyone any favors. Many trans women have had the experience of dating men who insist on keeping their relationship secret for fear of judgment from friends and family. This stigma toward men who date trans women has played a role in several cases (including Angie Zapata, Gwen Araujo, and Mercedes Williamson) where men in relationships with trans women later decided to murder them, often for fear of being perceived as “gay”.

The problem here isn’t that cis people don’t like trans women but are being told to like us. The problem here is that cis people do like trans women but are being told not to like us. That is coercive.

This is why I say that Blaire and Arielle don’t want cis people to love trans women. They are engaged in a kind of anti-journalism, comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted, reassuring a mass audience that there’s no need to give the slightest thought to how living in a transphobic society affects our perception of trans people – or how any widespread prejudices affect our perception of any minority. Even as they pretend to be sharing some incisive insights about cultural influences on sexuality, they seem entirely unaware of findings that “sexual racism” in partner preference correlates with more general racist attitudes, or that similar conversations are already taking place surrounding the desexualization of disabled women, fat women, and others.

They are trying to say that everything is fine here. And everything is not fine. 

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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