I recently read about a bath house that was marketed as “queer run”.
My first though:
“Oh cool, I could definitely go here with my boyfriend”
The article, however, contained the following popular phrase:
“This space is for women and trans people” (paraphrased).
So no, I could not take my boyfriend and I to a queer run spa, even if I may belong there based on the general definition of “trans”.
If you are confused or want to take this in bad faith here are two things you need to know about me:
- I’m a trans man/trans masc person.
- I’m a faggot, meaning I love all “flavors” of men, man loving man aligned people.
- These two facts do mean that current “queer and inclusive” spaces do not fit my community needs.
While “queer women, trans, and nonbinary” spaces are trying to be inclusive, they constantly fail gay/bi trans men. For starters, no matter how you slice or dice it, the whole phrase groups trans men, trans masculine/ nonbinary people with no connection to womanhood, with women. In addition, these spaces do run on the assumption and implication that all trans men/ masculine people are attracted to womanhood or relate with it on some level . The phrase groups trans men/ masculine people into these spaces based on their “AFABness”, a gross and transphobic metric of allowing which kind of trans people have access to supposedly “inclusive” spaces (it is also wildly transmisogynistric). The idea that gay/bi trans men and transmasculine people should be included in overly inclusive spaces lies in the hopefully subconscious idea that because of our genitals and attraction (while ignoring how we express our desire for men and our own transitions), we are just as woman aligned as the next queer cis woman or AFAB nonbinary person, a heteropatriarchal and transphobic assumption that is also used to push trans women and trans femmes out of these “safe and inclusive spaces
Gay/bi trans men and transmasculine people have different needs of even other trans men, and even wildly more different needs than trans and nonbinary people broadly. The way we navigate the world before, during, and after transition is different from a run of the mill straight trans man, cis or nonbinary butch, or a nonbinary person attached to womanhood, or not attached to gender at all. We grow up thinking that the only way to be masculine and a “girl” is to be attracted to women. Or we grow up and hide our desires. Maybe we engage in risky sexual behavior: such as sleeping with heterosexual men who want to hurt us, and yet we still are attracted to men and cannot cut the out of our sexual and romantic lives. For most, our transitions aren’t centered around the idea of “being a man”, even if we present “masc”. For gay/bi trans men and transmasculine people the alignment between our gender and body is to put it crudely, be seen and treated as a faggot, no different from cis gay/bi men. And yet, this still puts us in danger. We are subject to transphobia and homophobia from cis and trans people. We are given funny looks by other trans AFAB people for never identifying as a lesbian, being the wrong type of attracted to men (that type being too much) and subject to transphobia ranging from “ewww pussies are gross” to death threats from cis men that we are attracted to (and maybe also fetishization).
It also goes without saying for most of the community, spaces branded with “anyone but cis men” or the dreaded “queer women, trans, and nonbinary people” come with two connotations: two lazy to care, or actively transmisogynistic. Unless most of these places are frequented by mostly other trans people, most gay/bi trans men and transmasculine people avoid said spaces. We risk being outed, misgendered, or placed into uncomfortable situations where we must explain and defend ourselves and take up spaces where there definitely should be more trans women/ femmes. I’d hope these inclusive spaces are perfectly fine with trans women/ femmes, however no trans person’s genitalia (or shared genitalia with the cisgender target audience), should be part of a marketing or business plan. Beyond it being dehumanizing and transphobic, how does it hold up? When a trans man or masculine person has bottom surgery (like me), will they have to prove their transness with invasive questioning, poking, and prodding? Will a trans masculine person or trans man have to physically out themselves as trans in a dehumanizing way? In short: when trans men no longer fit neatly into the correct idea of “queerness” by virtue of being attracted to men or “transness”, in terms of our body no longer having the correct genitals for an AFAB person (yuck) what spaces are open to us? How will we be treated and seen? How will the broader “inclusive” trans community, whether it be dating apps (LEX), or businesses treat us? Why were we considered and trans women and femmes disqualified? How can creators, owners, and leaders of these spaces change their language to be specific in which groups of people are accommodated.
There absolutely should be more safe spaces for queer women, nonbinary, and trans people. However, the heads of these spaces should be very clear about who they are trying to serve. Obscure language that could be easily misinterpreted should not be deemed “exclusionary”. Ironically “exclusionary” language can water and nourish safe spaces: if people know where and how they will be welcomed, positive communities will flourish, and the community’s needs will be met with specificity.
My question has never been “how can gay/bi trans men and transmasculine people be included in “inclusive” spaces?”. My questions are “if we don’t feel safe yet in gay/bi men’s space and definitely don’t feel safe in so called ‘Queer women, trans, and nonbinary’ spaces where the fuck do we go?” and “why, after so many years of medical and social gatekeeping and silencing, are we still being ignored?”.
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