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Trans porn, trans women, and the fetishization of “tgurls”

Content warning: this post contains mentions of trans porn, trans slurs, and descriptions of transphobic violence.

trans porn and violence

 

Porn featuring pre-op/non-op trans women (aka “tranny porn”)* has always been popular among straight men and continues to be widely popular. I specifically mention the terms “pre-op/non-op” because that’s the only kind of trans woman that seems to be popular with straight men. Everyone knows, if you wanna be a trans porn star, you better keep your dick.

*”tranny” is our word. Just because I say it does not give a cis person the right to use it as well.

The fetishization of women with penises is at the very heart of why trans porn is so popular. But why? Why are straight men (and there are female trans chasers too) so obsessed with trans women who have penises? How could it be that many straight men would not date, love, or marry a trans woman but he will jerk off to her on the internet? If you want to see the fetishization of trans women happen in real time it’s easy, just go to craiglist’s “m4t” section and read and weep. Straight men will fuck us, but not love us. All they care about is that we are “passable”, not that we are strong, determined, beautiful women.

They don’t really see us as females, they see us as a third sex. We are never simply women, or even trans women, but rather trannies, tgirls, gurls, tgirls, transsexuals, TS, TS gurls, shemales, ladyboys, chicks with dicks,etc. TERFs third-sex us as well, calling us male-to-trans, MtTs.

What’s the one glaring difference between cis porn and trans porn? The genitals are different. That’s all it is. But why do straight men consume so much porn featuring women with not-commonly-seen genitals? I hesitate to wager a speculative hypothesis: novelty and taboo are dominant factors. For straight men used to having sex with cis women and watching  porn of cis women, trans women represent something they see as “exotic”. Trans women make up roughly 1% of the population. Many Americans don’t personally know any trans people. Perhaps they have heard of Caitlyn Jenner. But you bet they’re watching trans porn. Our rarity makes us anomalies to the cis world, strange creatures who are Othered so strongly that we become a separate metaphysical category: the tgirl.

When you combine the novelty factor with the social stigma against trans bodies it creates a taboo whereby trans porn becomes “dirty”, “naughty”, or otherwise scandalous. This why straight male celebrities who get “caught” dating tran women often end up in media scandals and their masculinity is challenged. It’s why so many straight men might hook up with trans women but not bring them to thanksgiving dinner. The taboo nature of trans people, and especially trans women, fuels the fetishization against trans women. When straight men consume too much cis porn they become bored and the taboo nature of trans porn leads to it’s long-time, overwhelming popularity among straight cis men.

Why does this matter? Why am I talking about this? Because let me give you a scenario, a scenario that is drawn from real life. A straight cis male is horny, watching trans porn. He gets so horny that he wants to find a trans sex worker to fulfill his fantasy. He goes on craigslist and finds someone. He has sex with her, cums, and then has a sudden feeling of disgust (stemming from the taboo), feels his heterosexuality and manhood are threatened because he just slept with a non-cis woman and possibly got off on her having a dick. He gets enraged and defensive, “panics”, and then brutally murders the trans woman for having the audacity to be herself. I am not making up this scenario at all. It is straight up pulled from real life, often involving trans women of color. Sadly, this so-called “panic defense” is admissible in court as an excuse for murder in most states.

This is why the fetishization of trans women is so dangerous. It fuels violence against trans women by men who have been so poisoned by the stigma in society against trans people, especially trans women, that they want to fuck us or be fucked by us yet are so disgusted by us that they will kill us afterwards. Or maybe they will skip the sex and just kill us for being who we are. Or beat the shit out of us until we are an inch from death. It happens. all the time. all across the world. 

So next time you internally Other a trans woman, remember, your attitude of fetishization and objectification of her body is indirectly fueling the exploitation of trans bodies and the brutal violence against those bodies. Your fetish is dripping with blood.

But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being attracted to trans bodies. I get it, trust me: trans people are beautiful and our bodies are special and wonderful as well. The problem is not finding trans women attractive. It’s the automatic mental operation of putting us into the metaphysical category of an Other, an automatic third sex option ticked off, why it’s so common for straight men to only call us gurls because they want to highlight how we are so different from cis girls, a whole other creature: a tranny. mtf. tgurl.

There is nothing wrong with third sex/gender, or thinking that you are third sex/gender. I actually prefer to think of myself as third gender. It’s what I feel most comfortable with. But I would never say that all other trans people are third gender, because many feel they are firmly within the gender binary and I respect that. It’s the way in which we are thrown into the third sex/gender category without our explicit consent. It’s the way our bodies are seen as exotic and other worldly, like a living breathing sex doll with “unique features”. This widespread attitude is dangerous and fuels much of the transphobic violence against trans women.

If we are going to put an end to transphobic violence and the dangerous fetishization of trans bodies, we need to, as a society, become more accepting of trans people, especially trans women, as normal members of society, not deviants or perverts. We need to end the Jerry Springer-esque “freak show” phenomenon that fuels the stigma against us. We need to end medical gatekeeping. We need to stop the myth that trans women who like women are autogynephilic predators and the falsehood that trans women who like men are just hyper-gay. We need for more people to get to know us on a personal level, to see that we are people like everyone else, with hopes, fears, and a desire to be safe, loved, and respected. But most of all, we need cis people, especially cis straight males, to do their own work of educating themselves about the dangers of cis normativity, cis sexism, and toxic masculinity.

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Are Trans People Easily Offended?

Trans people have a reputation for being fierce social justice advocates to the point where there exists a stereotype of an “angry” trans person, especially an “angry” or “crazy” trans woman who takes offense at the slightest thing. For example, trans people are very nitpicky about language. If a news article describes a trans woman as being “born a boy” trans people are quick to point out the proper terminology is “assigned male at birth”. Examples like this can be multiplied. The point is that trans people often get offended over what cis people deem to be relatively “trivial” things particularly with respect to linguistic decisions.

A few things. First, every trans person is different. Some might not care about slight linguistic choices. Others care a lot. Second, it’s not up to cis people to determine what’s offensive or not. If a trans person takes offense at something a cis person deems as “minor” it is probably the case that the cis person fails to put themselves into the shoes of the trans person who is being hurt/offended.

A good example of this is misgendering. It’s really difficult for cis people to understand how much it hurts to be misgendered. Cis people might just say “get over it” or “it was just an innocent mistake” or “I am trying”. But to the trans person, these small acts are deeply personal. The wrong pronoun really stings. Or getting deadnamed. And perhaps the cis people making the mistake are not directly at fault for such slip-ups, but instead of being defensive they should be open to the idea that their slip-ups can really hurt.

Furthermore, I would say that trans people often have a good vantage point to see where some things deemed “minor” are actually the effect of a deeply transphobic society. Most cis people cannot see transphobia or cis-sexism because they are so steeped in it – like the old joke about fish not knowing what water is. When society has unconsciously made trans women the butt of jokes everywhere it’s easy to just say “oh those trannies are getting huffy about an innocent joke again” or “can’t you take a joke”? Another example is the t-word “tranny”. Trans people are allowed to reclaim this word but cis people have no right to it. Yet cis people feel it should be theirs to use, especially cis gay men like Ru Paul who feel his drag world credentials make it permissible to use the t-slur. Ru Paul has no right to that word for the same reason white people have no right to the n-word.

Words have power. Cis people need to understand that the words we use reflect our underlying metaphysical assumptions. Saying a trans woman was “born a boy” instead of “assigned male” helps reinforce the idea that a trans woman is “really” a boy who grew up to play dress up. By stepping up and calling out problematic linguistic usage trans people are desperately trying to re-take language for themselves, for language to be inclusive and validating. This is why we are often such fierce protectors of the language the trans community has developed over decades. Battles over language are important because it’s one of the few tools we have to combat rampant cis-sexism. By educating cis people about the importance of language we can hope to make this society more accepting of our existence as trans people.

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Filed under Gender studies, Trans life, Trans studies